Jared Tallent takes bronze in the men's 20km walk (Getty Images) © Copyright
Despite an early race ‘pit stop’ which cost him around 90 seconds Tallent recorded a solo three hours 38 minutes 56 seconds, 31 seconds faster than his previous best set in taking the Olympic silver medal in Beijing. Australian Institute of Sport teammates Luke Adams and Adam Rutter each took part, but neither went significantly beyond the half-way point. All three have recently been living in the ‘altitude house’ on the AIS’s Canberra campus, emerging for this race.
“I didn’t expect the time so quickly after such intense strength and base training at the altitude camp,” said Tallent.
“We haven’t really been working on speed recently, so to start the summer with a personal best gives me a lot of confidence.”
Tallent and Adams sent Australian hearts soaring when they took control of the 50km at the world championships in Berlin earlier this year. Tallent still held the lead at 40k, but faded to seventh place. Adams was sixth.
That race was conducted in bright sunlight on Berlin’s famed Unter Den Linden boulevard, finishing at the Brandenburg Gate. Melbourne, along with the rest of south-eastern Australia, had been experiencing record November sequences of 30deg.C-plus days in the fortnight leading up to Sunday’s race, but the drought broke in a big way on the Saturday evening and the championship was held in continuous, and often torrential, rain.
With raindrops literally falling on his head, Tallent acknowledged after the race that Berlin was a huge motivating factor. “I was disappointed,’’ he said, agreeing that he had over-extended himself and paid the price. “I just wasn’t as fit as I thought I was.”
A new personal best is part redemption, but nothing less than a medal at the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Chihuahua next May will satisfy Tallent. A dual Olympic medallist in Beijing (bronze in the 20, silver in the 50k), he is determined to be back on the medallists’ dais in Mexico.
“I’m looking for a medal (in Chihuahua) and today’s result is the ideal start to what will be a tough training schedule between now and then,” said Tallent.
With neither Adams nor Rutter going the distance, there were ultimately only three finishers in the race. Tom Barnes took second, some 33 minutes behind Tallent, with former Olympic and world championships representative Duane Cousins another couple of minutes back.
Jessica Rothwell, Australia’s leading women’s finisher in Berlin, took out the associated women’s 20km on Sunday in 1:34:22, three minutes ahead of world championships teammate Claire Tallent. Ian Rayson won the men’s 20k in 1:29:50; Rydian Cowley and Beth Alexander won the invitational junior men’s and women’s 10k walks respectively.
Osaka 2007 world champion at 50k, Nathan Deakes, did not compete, but Australian chief selector Peter Fitzgerald said Deakes had indicated he would be seeking a World Cup place at 20k and planned to compete at the selection trial for that event to be held in Hobart in February.
Historical footnote: Sunday’s races were held on the 53rd anniversary of the opening ceremony of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. By way of reference, the 20k walk then was won by Leonid Spirin (USSR) in 1:31:28 and the 50 by New Zealand’s Norman Read in 4:30:43. There were no women’s walks.
Len Johnson for the IAAF