Jared Tallent opens his 2011 season with the Australian national 20Km title in Hobart (Getty Images) © Copyright
The two 20km races, Area Meetings which count towards the IAAF Race Walking Challenge, also served as the Australian championships and were the selection trial for the Daegu 2011 World Championships. Both Tallents will be automatic selections for the 20km in the World Championships.
Commonwealth champion Jo Jackson of Britain pulled out of the women’s race just before the half-way point while walking with Claire Tallent. Jackson, who has been training in Australia for six weeks, reportedly experienced minor hamstring soreness.
Luke Adams and Adam Rutter took the minor placings in the men’s event, with the best of the internationals visitors being Inaki Gomez (CAN), who finished fourth. Ato Ibinez (SWE) was fifth across the line.
Nathan Deakes finished seventh, completing his first major race since winning the gold medal at 50km at the 2007 Osaka World Championships.
Hobart skies clear for race
Rain which had been falling for most of the day stopped as if by decree shortly before the 6:15pm start at Constitution Dock on Hobart’s picturesque and historic waterfront.
Tallent, bidding for his fourth consecutive Australian title at 20km, lined up alongside long-time rival Luke Adams.
In their previous meeting over 20km, Adams had tested dual Beijing Olympic medallist Tallent severely in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. In the interim, Adams won the 50km championship in Melbourne last December, a race Tallent did not finish.
This day, however, it was Tallent virtually from gun to tape. After six kilometres he had a lead of around 100 metres. At the finish, in 1:20:18, he was 42 seconds clear.
Like nearly everyone else, Tallent slowed a little in the energy-sapping humidity, which rose as soon as the rain stopped. He was on track to improve the personal best 1:19:15 he walked to win this race a year ago before slowing down marginally.
“I’m pretty happy, it was tough out there in quite unusual Tasmanian humidity so I struggled in the last 10km to be honest,” Tallent said.
“It’s a good start to my season and I’m now looking forward to upcoming races in Mexico and China before building towards the 20km and 50km double in Daegu.
“I’ve qualified for both events now and came home from Beijing with two medals so that is what I want to see happen at the world champs (sic),” he said.
Rutter finished third in 1:22:25, just beating the IAAF A-standard for Daegu and putting a strong case to the Australian selectors for inclusion in the team.
Deakes finished in 1:25:37, a time well outside his personal best but a pleasing result. A couple of minor short-distance races aside, it is the first time he has completed a 20 or 50km race since winning the world title at 50km in Osaka in 2007.
“The big thing was to get through and finish it,” said Deakes’ coach, Craig Hilliard.
Deakes heading to Dudince; Tallent for Chihuahua
Both Deakes and Tallent will be quickly back in action as the IAAF Race Walking Challenge continues.
Deakes, along with Chris Erickson, is to do the 50km in Dudince, Slovakia, on 26 March. Tallent and Adams will compete over 20km in Chihuahua, Mexico, on 5 March.
Tallent wins as Lamble impresses - women's race
Like her husband, Claire Tallent is amassing an impressive collection of national titles. Today’s was her second 20km championships in a row and third overall.
While she was no match for Jackson in Delhi, Tallent was always up with the Englishwoman and went on to an easy win after Jackson pulled out around the half-way mark. Her 1:33:39 put her almost 90 seconds clear at the finish.
“Jared seems to be showing the way of late and it’s always great to follow him across the line for first shortly after he finishes,” Claire Tallent said.
Second place went to 2010 World junior championships 10,000 metres eighth placegetter Regan Lamble. Having improved to 1:36:40 chasing Tallent home last December, the 19-year-old Lamble took another chunk off her personal best in recording 1:35:08.
Nicole Fagan, like Lamble and Jess Rothwell, a member of Australia’s junior women’s team at the 2008 Race Walking Cup, finished third in 1:35:55.
Generation next takes junior races
It was a big day for the Tallent family, which hails from a potato farm just outside Steve Moneghetti’s home town of Ballarat, as Jared’s younger sister Rachel won the junior women’s 10km event.
Completing the family theme, Dane Bird-Smith won the junior men’s 10km. Bird-Smith, who was fifth in the World junior championships 10,000 in Moncton last year, is the son of former Australian international walker Dave Smith.
The next race in the IAAF Race Walking Challenge will be in Chihuahua, Mexico, host of last year’s IAAF World Race Walking Cup, on 5 March.
Len Johnson for the IAAF