MASTER medals accumulator Jared Tallent equalled the record for most Olympic podium finishes by an Australian male track and field athlete on a mixed day for his family.
Ballarat’s Tallent finished second in the men’s 50km walk behind Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin and then returned to the circuit several hours later on Saturday to see wife Claire disqualified in the women’s 20km event.
For Jared Tallent it was a second straight silver in the Olympic 50km event to go with his bronze in the 20km race four years ago in Beijing.
It equals the tally of Australian sprinter Stan Rowley, who was third in the 60m, 100m and 200m at the 1900 Paris Games.
His Beijing performance made him the first Australian male track and field athlete to win two medals at the one Olympics, joining Rowley and Edwin Flack, who took away two gold medals in 1896.
Tallent was rattled by receiving two red cards early on but fought back superbly to claim his third Olympic medal.
In a fast race on a sunny day at The Mall in central London where the top five broke their personal bests, Tallent charged home to finish less than a minute behind the Russian gold medallist.
Tallent, from Newlyn, stepped up the pace and clocked a stunning split of 42 minutes in the last 10 kilometres, picking off everyone ahead of him except Kirdyapkin, who clocked an Olympic record of three hours 35 minutes and 59 seconds.
Tallent, aged 27, was second in 3:36:53 and Si Tianfeng of China took the bronze.
The podium finish for Tallent had looked highly unlikely a couple of hours earlier, when he was just one warning away from disqualification.
“I’ve never had two red cards that early in a 50K race before and it looked like my Olympic dream of winning was disappearing,” Tallent said.
“For the next 10 kilometres I was really nervous.
“With every lap I came around past the chief judge I thought this was going to be it and it would be the end of my race.
“But after another 10 kilometres I was really just thinking about my technique and trying to stay relaxed and comfortable.
“It was tough. Towards about 35K I started to relax a lot more and focused on catching the leaders.
“I just tried to stay strong and finish the best that I could.”
Tallent’s wife Claire was disqualified after 12km, 52 minutes into the women’s 20km walk.
She was 10th at the time, on Australian record pace and one minute, 27 seconds from the lead.
Russia finished first and second with gold to Elena Lashmanova (1:25.02) by seven seconds over OlgaKaniskina. Shenjie Qieyang from China was third. Australia’s Regan Lamble was 17th and Beki Lee 28th.
Meanwhile, Tallent’s wonderful day turned unbearably sad as the Saturday evening shadows crept across Green Park to the London Mall. The equation that changed it all was heartbreaking and simple. One official, one red flag and the tiny crushed frame of his fellow-walker wife Claire, disqualified from the women’s 20 kilometre event.
The more the 31-year-old sobbed the closer her husband held her. Watching his shattered face it was clear that the memories of his third Olympic medal would be forever tainted.
“For the rest of our lives, it’s going to be a good and bad day,” said Tallent.
Claire Tallent had been on Australian record pace at the halfway mark of the walk in a race that was won in world record time, a thriller which saw one Russian – Elena Lashmanova – overtake her compatriot Olga Kaniskina and win after one hour and 25 minutes by seven hundredths of a second.
Tallent said she “felt like gold” for almost every step of the estimated 13km she completed.
Having no clear clue that her spartan campaign towards the London Olympics was in serious danger of being ruined, the 31-year-old only learned of her perilous situation one kilometre before it was all over.
Jared had shouted to her that she had received two red cards.
“What happened?” Tallent wondered before summing up her lot with brutal clarity.
“I come to the Olympics in the shape of my life and done a PB through 10k, been on pace for a national record, felt like gold and fell foul of the judges.”
When asked about her future, she said: “I don’t know. I love Jared. I don’t know.”