Walking Tallent set to fly flag for Aussies
ATHLETICS: If anyone deserves a world championship gold medal, it's Jared Tallent.
Given a level playing field, the 30-year-old race walker from Adelaide is capable of beating the best in the world.
Unfortunately that can be a rare commodity in the world of international athletics.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Tallent won a silver medal in the 20km walk, and backed that up with another second placing - behind Italian Alex Schwazer - in the 50km. The achievement made Tallent the first Australian track and field athlete since Stan Rowley at the Paris Games in 1900 to win two or more medals at a single Olympics.
Then at the London Games in 2012, the Aussie again picked up silver in the event, this time beating all but Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin.
Unfortunately for Tallent, not only was Schwazer subsequently banned for blood irregularities, earlier this year Kirdyapkin was given a three-year and two-month suspension, backdated to October, 2012.
The Russian Anti-Doping Authority also annulled his results for three separate periods between 2009 and June, 2012, meaning he got to keep the gold he won in London a few months later.
Athletics Australia has since appealed that decision, and with anti-doping campaigner and former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe set to take over as president of the International Association of Athletics Federations next month, justice could yet prevail.
Tallent has said being recognised as the legitimate champion - at least from the 50km walk at the London Games - would be "bittersweet".
"To get the gold medal would be amazing, but I still wouldn't get to have that moment on the dais," he said earlier this year.
The good news is that with the 2015 world championships set to start in Beijing tomorrow, Tallent will not have any Russians to contend with in his event.
With its race walking program already under investigation by the IAAF, Russia has taken the unprecedented step of withdrawing its entire race walking team from the event.
That leaves Tallent with a great chance of at least matching the bronze medals he won at the past two world championships.
Australia's record at the world championships doesn't make great reading. We have had just two multiple gold medal winners (Cathy Freeman and Jana Rawlinson), and six single gold medallists (Robert de Castella, Dmitri Markov, Nathan Deakes, Steve Hooker, Dani Samuels and Sally Pearson).
Pearson also won silver at the 2013 world championships in Moscow, but the Olympic 100m hurdles champion is presently sidelined with a broken wrist.
Australia's only other medallist in Moscow was Kim Mickle who won silver in the women's javelin.
The West Australian will compete in Beijing but has struggled to reach her best form in major competitions since winning gold at last year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
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