Australian Institute of Sport based walkers Jared Tallent and Kellie Wapshott both produced sparkling performances to earn automatic Olympic nomination following victories in the Australian 20km Race Walk Championships at Melbourne’s Fawkner Park today (23).
The women’s 20km, was won by Jo Jackson who set a British record of 1:31:40, she was followed home by Wapshott in second.
The duo both produced big personal bests with Tallent now confirming a spot in both the 20km and 50km events in Beijing and Wapshott overcoming a horror run of injuries to produce the performance of her career in the women’s event.
With Luke Adams (AIS) already pre-nominated for the Australian team in the 20km event, Tallent had the most to gain in today’s event, which doubled as the Olympic selection trial. After a somewhat pedestrian first kilometre, it was Tallent and Adams who pushed the pace, leaving Adam Rutter (AIS) and Chris Erickson (AIS) to battle for third place.
Tallent, who was with the leaders at the 15km mark at the world titles in Osaka last year before being disqualified, made a strong move at half way before recording a strong victory. The 23-year-old from Ballarat won in an A-qualifying time of 1 hour 19 minutes and 41 seconds to win the national title and automatic nomination for Beijing.
Adams finished second in 1:20:32, also an A-qualifier, with Rutter third in a personal best and A-qualifying time of 1:21:49. In a high quality event, Erickson finished fourth in a personal best of 1:23:49. Tallent becomes just the fifth Australian to break the 80 minute barrier.
Fortunately for World 50km champion Nathan Deakes, who missed the trial due to injury, Rutter has already been nominated for the 50km Race Walk and is not seeking selection for the shorter event, leaving the door open for Deakes to fill the remaining place when the final walk team is announced following the IAAF World Walk Cup in Cheboksary, Russia in May.
“I did my best ever training session last week so I knew I was in form,” Tallent said after the race. “It was a bit slow at the start, but we picked it up and the second k was quick. I wanted to win and get the A, so I’ve achieved both goals.”
After spending three weeks in January in the altitude house at the AIS to prepare for today’s event, Tallent will travel to Chihuahua, Mexico (8/9 March) for the opening IAAF Race Walking Challenge event before competing in the world walk cup in preparation for the Games.
Like Deakes, Athens Olympic bronze medallist Jane Saville missed the women’s trial due to injury, although she was on hand to cheer for sister Natalie, who was with a group of four walkers that included Great Britain’s Jo Jackson, South Australian Claire Woods and Victorian Kellie Wapshott.
The quartet was still together at half way, before Jackson eased away leaving Woods and Wapshott to battle it out for the national title and the coveted automatic Olympic nomination.
With the pace on the A-qualifying mark of 1:33.30 throughout, Jackson cruised to victory in 1:31.40 - a personal best by nearly five minutes, which broke Lisa Kehler's previous British best of 1:33:57.
Woods and Wapshott duelled over the last lap, with Wapshott coming from behind to take the Australian title in 1:32.57, with Woods next in 1:33.02 – both big personal best’s and under the A-qualifying mark. Natalie Saville finished fourth in 1:35.10.
For Wapshott, 26, an osteopath who competes for the Knox Athletics Club in Melbourne before moving to the AIS in 2006, the performance puts a sorry run of injuries behind her.
“I had a fantastic 5k at the state titles and hoped I could do it today. I’ve had a bad run with injuries and had hamstring surgery, similar to what Nathan had in 2007, so missed the Commonwealth Games and the world champs, so this is such as thrill,” she said.
Australian 20km Road Walking Championships
Fawkner Park, Melbourne 23/02/2008
Women 20k Race Walk Open
1, Jo Jackson, GBR, 1:31:40;
2, Kellie Wapshott, AIS, 1:32:57;
3, Claire Woods, SA, 1:33:02;
4, Natalie Saville, NSWIS, 1:35:10;
5, Megan Szirom, VIC, 1:36:37;
6, Cheryl Webb, NSWIS, 1:38:09;
7, Jess Heazlewood*, NSW, 1:41:55;
8, Bekki Lee*, NSW, 1:43:37;
Men 20k Race Walk RR Open
1, Jared Tallent, AIS, 1:19:41;
2, Luke Adams, AIS, 1:20:32;
3, Adam Rutter*, AIS, 1:21:49;
4, Chris Erickson, AIS, 1:23:49;
5, Duane Cousins, VIS, 1:27:47;
6, Marc Mundell, RSA, 1:28:55;
7, Thomas Barnes, VIC, 1:30:21;
8, Ian Rayson*, NSW, 1:31:16;