Australian race walking continued where it left off at the Commonwealth Games with two medals on day one of the World Race Walking Teams Championships in Taicang China today.
Women 50km Walk
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.
Women 20km Walk
A talented pair of Australia race walkers lined up for the women’s 20-kilometre event, newly crowned Commonwealth Games champion Jemima Montag (VIC) and 2016 Olympian Rachel Tallent (VIC).
Both endured a frustrating race, as Montag was disqualified after passing through 15-kilometres in 13th position, 40 seconds outside a podium finish.
Olympian Tallent has battled injury over the last two seasons, and will find solace in returning to the international race walking scene. The 25-year old finished 59th in 1:36:34, 1:14 outside of her season’s best.
Montag spent a substantial amount of the race sharing the lead in a group of fifteen, until a six second gap developed following 10-kilometres, growing to 42 seconds by 15-kilometres.
Mexican Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez was victorious, recording a seasons best of 1:26:38, 15 seconds outside of the current World Leading time set by Russia’s Elena Lashmanova in Sochi in February. Silver was awarded to Shijie Qieyang (CHN), who finished 16 seconds ahead of teammate Jiayu Yiang (CHN), recording times of 1:27:06 and 1:27:22 respectively.
U20 Men 10km Walk
There is no doubt Australia has a great crop of young walkers emerging in the juniors ranks and that was highlighted by a tremendous result in the men’s under-20 10km walk today.
From the gun, Perth Declan Tingay was in the lead pack which numbered about a dozen over the first half of the race. The pack was dominated by host nation athletes, who stepped up the pace at the 7km mark. It was a telling more with Tingay dropping back into a second four-person pack. Progressing well in seventh place, Tingay was pushing it a little too much and with about one kilometre remaining he received another warning and was placed in a ‘the pitstop’ where he sustained a one-minute penalty. Melbourne’s Kyle Swan was always in the top-15 and flew home to placed tenth in a time of 41:44, slicing over a minute from his PB. The Brent Vallance-coached athlete clocked the second fastest ever time by an Australian in this event at these championships. Tingay re-joined the race and strode home in 14th place and critically ensured Australia won a bronze medal in the team event behind China and Japan, just our second in history. Tingay clocked 42:01 and despite the minute penalty still set a PB. Australia’s third member of the team, the youthful 16-year-old Mitchell Baker placed 41st in a time of 46:47 and returns to Australian with a bronze medal.
Early leaders, China pair Yao Zhang and Zhaozhao Wang confirmed a one-two for the host nation with Zhang’s recording a winning time of 40:07.
On what was a memorable day for the Tallent family, Jared Tallent today attended a ceremony to receive two gold medals from the 2012 and 2016 IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships 50-kilometre race walk. This followed the recently confirmed positive doping test of the 2016 first-placed race walker Alex Schwazer (ITA) and a previously confirmed series of abnormalities in the Athlete Biological Passport profile of 2012 first-placed Sergey Kirdyapkin (RUS) and second-placed Igor Erokhin (RUS).
Tallent has maintained a dignified, yet determined voice against doping within the race walking community, “The details of the IAAF findings and subsequent sanctioning for the doping of Russian athletes are well known. I gratefully accept my 2012 gold medal on behalf of all athletes who strive for success in the best way possible. Clean, fair and with humility”.
Sean Whipp and David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia
Image: Claire and Jared Tallent