OLYMPIAN Jared Tallent was sensationally disqualified from the national 20km race walk with the Australia and Oceanic men’s title almost in his grasp.
Tallent crossed the line in first-place – then was informed post-race that he had been disqualified.
The red card was dealt in the closing stages of the event in Hobart, after Tallent had entered the final lap with a 60-metre lead on Queenslander Dane Bird-Smith.
Bird-Smith crossed the line in one hour, 22 minutes, 39 seconds to win from dual Olympian Chris Erickson (1:25:23) and Rhydian Cowley (1:26.49).
Victory earns Bird-Smith automatic selection for the IAAF World Race Walking Cup and his first national crown.
Tallent had been in strong form from the outset, among a small group to set the pace early and made a clear break with Bird-Smith at the half-way mark.
“It was an unbelievable race, especially with that final result,” Bird-Smith said.
“My plan coming into today was to go with boys like Jared and Chris, sit with them and work towards keeping the time low.
“Jared then slammed the pace down with about 4km to go, we went from 4:10 pace to 3:40 pace each kilometre and it was tough on the legs that’s for sure.
“I was so happy to be able to hold on as well as I did.”
Tallent and Erickson have already been named in the Australian Flames’ team as 50km competitors for the world up in Taicing, China, this May.
Their early selection was based on their performances at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, in which Tallent won bronze.
Tallent has contested five World Race Walking Cups, winning bronze in the past two - Chihuahua, Mexico in 2010 and Saransk, Russia in 2012.