Jared Tallent opens 2010 with a 20km PB in Hobart (Getty Images) © Copyright
The Australian 20k Race Walking Championships is an Area Permit meeting through which points can be earned towards qualification for the IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final on 19 September in Beijing, China.
Tallent, who also took a silver in the Beijing Olympic 50km, led from gun to tape on the course around Hobart’s picturesque and historic waterfront, crossing the line in one hour 19 minutes 15 seconds, over two minutes ahead of fellow-Australian Luke Adams.
Ato Ibanez of Sweden took third place with Chris Erickson of Australia fourth.
Tallent’s wife, Claire Tallent (formerly Woods), took the women’s 20km to make it a family double and keep the household at the same level of achievement. Both won the associated Australian titles and earned automatic selection for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October.
The 2010 series did not start so auspiciously for defending champion Eder Sanchez of Mexico, who was disqualified in the last lap of the race while holding a clear second place over 30 seconds ahead of Adams. Sanchez and his Mexican teammates Adrian Herrera and David Mejia (both also disqualified) have their 26 February selection trials for the World Walking Cup in Chihuahua as their immediate goal, but no walker likes to see the notation ‘dq’ next to their name on the result sheet.
The evening also ended on a down note for reigning Commonwealth 20 and 50km champion Nathan Deakes. Walking his first race since winning the World championships 50km in Osaka in 2007, Deakes went out hard but just did not have it in his legs to finish. He pulled out during the sixth of 10 laps, by which stage he was almost 90 seconds behind Tallent.
With Sanchez’s disqualification and that of Adam Rutter, Ibanez’s steady progress through the field was rewarded with third place. Of the other visiting internationals, Japanese pair Isamu Fujisawa and Yuki Yamazaki were fifth and sixth, respectively.
Tallent led a bunch of six through the first lap in just over eight minutes, with Adams, Deakes, Sanchez, Rutter and Erickson all at his heels, but a 7:40 second lap took him clear and he was never threatened again. At half-way (39.08) he was 36 seconds up on Sanchez and 61 ahead of Adams.
Sanchez moved past Deakes into second place in the third lap, Adams moved past the Osaka 50km champion in the fourth and Rutter did so right on the half-way mark. But their race was for second place by then.
Tallent to lead a strong 50km team to Chihuahua
The winning time was the fastest walked on Australian soil other than the Sydney 2000 gold and silver medal times of Robert Korzeniowski of Poland (1:18:59) and Mexico’s Hernandez Noe (1:19:03).
“I’m really happy, I came here today wanting to win my third national title in a row and I’m very satisfied I was able to do that and I got away with a big PB,” Tallent said.
“My tactic was to go out and get an early lead and just really hold it each lap after that. My tactic was to get the lead early and I think that really paid off.
“Last year wasn’t great so I definitely want to bounce back this year and have a successful year like in 2008. The first stop is the World Walking Cup in May and I’ll be tackling the 50km there and also looking for gold.”
Tallent will head a strong Australian team - Deakes, Adams, Erickson and Tom Barnes - which is also a medal contender.
“We’re in it to win it,” said Tallent’s coach at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, Brent Vallance, a comment which will no doubt be noted in Saransk and other places.
Claire Tallent Bides Her Time
If her husband made his intentions plain from the start, Clare Tallent was more content to choose her moment in the women’s race.
For the first half of the race she sat an unobtrusive third as Cheryl Webb and Gillian Hosking pushed the pace. By 12km, however, she had assumed the lead and pulled away gradually from the other pair to win eventually by almost 50 seconds in 1:32:41.
Webb (1:33:29) was second with the impressive Hosking (1:34:13) holding off Beijing Olympian Kellie Wapshott for third place.
Juniors Post Qualifiers
In other results, 2009 world youth championships representative Dane Bird-Smith took out the U20 men’s 10km walk in a personal best time of 43:16 ahead of Sean Fitzsimons (43:31), both posting world junior championships qualifying times.
Regan Lamble took out the women’s U20 event in 48:11 ahead of Beth Alexander (49:02) and Paige Hooper (49:25), all three meeting world junior championships A-qualifying standards.
The IAAF Race Walking Challenge now moves to Olhao, Portugal next Sunday (21 February).
Len Johnson for the IAAF