In an historic morning for Australian race walking, Claire Tallent (SA) displayed career-defining grit and determination in difficult conditions. Bouncing back from a heartbreaking disqualification on the Gold Coast mere weeks ago, Tallent’s tenacity was rewarded with a World Race Walking Team Championships 50km walk bronze medal.
Setting a new personal best and national record of 4:09:33, Tallent was 24 seconds shy of silver medalist Hang Yin (CHN), a further 4:57 behind race winner Rui Liang (CHN), who set a new World Record in 4:04:36.
Tallent made her intentions clear early, tucking in with a lead group of seven that separated from the field within the opening five kilometres. A strong lead group formed, predominantly headed by Chinese athletes Maocuou Li, Yin, Liang and former world record holder Ines Henriques (POR).
Reaching halfway in 2:02:51, a six-second gap had developed between Tallent and the leading group of four, as Henriques hovered near world record pace, as rain coated the Taicang roads.
Tallent reconnected with the leading three Chinese athletes, as Henriques was disqualified. Tallent’s return spooked the group, and the pace increased once more, as Liang took charge and pushed the lead Chinese group to a 40-second gap on Tallent by 35-kilometres.
Liang continued to accelerate in bursts, splitting the lead group in devastating fashion, consequently opening the door for Tallent, as Li and Yin begun to surrender 1:44 and 2:45 gaps to Liang respectively.
Li passed 45-kilometres second, a team podium sweep looking a near-certainty for China, however as the commentators discussed the likelihood of a sweep, Li capitulated. Tallent sighted Li in the distance late in the race and fought through immense fatigue in her debut 50-kilometre race, surging past Li to cross the line third.
The fourth-fastest performance in the event’s brief history, Tallent crossed the line in total shock, unsure whether to celebrate or cover her face in surprise, a decision quickly simplified by embracing ecstatic husband Jared Tallent in the post-event area.
A maiden global championship medal a testament to Tallent’s ability to move on from a difficult Commonwealth Games campaign, taking on the best in the world and asserting herself as a force to be reckoned with in the new women’s championship distance.
Sean Whipp for Athletics Australia.
Image: Getty Images.