WHEN Jared Tallent steps out on The Mall this weekend, he instantly makes history.
Whatever happens, however Tallent’s race unfolds, the 32-year-old from Newlyn becomes the most prolific Australian contender in the IAAF World Championships.
No other Australian male or female has been to as many world track and field championships as Tallent, who started his journey at the 2005 edition in Helsinki.
And that is definitely worth celebrating.
Five Australian women have contested six world championships, including discus thrower Dani Samuels and sprint hurdler Sally Pearson who are both in action in London.
But when it comes to the men, the only other Australian male to have six world championships under his belt is fellow Ballaratian Steve Moneghetti.
Fellow Ballarat High School graduate Collis Birmingham has is one of 15 Australian men to have competed in four world championships.
Out-of-towners question what it is about Ballarat and elite sports, how we have such an incredible number of world-class athletes hailing from this city – a regional city. Our athletes come from a whole range of sporting fields but in particular, when it comes to athletics.
Ultimately, this all comes back to culture.
Hard work and determination sets the tone in pushing boundaries. Hometown pride inspires.
Athletes like Moneghetti and Birmingham continue to bring elite runners to Ballarat to train and feel exactly what this city landscape has to offer. They have been big drivers in creating a running culture.
This creates opportunity for young emerging runners to get a taste of what is possible and what is needed to achieve this.
Tallent has remained consistently true to Ballarat, giving back to the community’s sporting ranks and those who have helped him along his journey. He leads by example.
Quiet and shy growing up, Tallent has become one of the most highly-regarded athletes in the Australian athletics team – the Flames’ Rio Olympics captain – speaking out for a cleaner stage and now as a coach. Younger sister Rachel steps out under his guidance for the women’s 20-kilometre race walk in London hours after his 50km on Sunday evening, Ballarat time.
Tallent still has plenty to chase.
He will be out on the same course on which he captured gold and set an Olympic record for the 2012 London Olympics – both only recognised last year when the Russian who crossed the line first was stripped of the titles for drug use.
While Tallent may equal running legend Cathy Freeman for the most medals won in a world championship, a gold (of which Freeman has two) has so far eluded him.
Touted as one of Australia’s strongest gold medal hopes in London, Tallent has plenty to prove.
This commitment, drive and longevity at this level of the game is incredible. But it is the passion to continue getting the best out himself and other that is most important – that keeps inspiring the whole next generation of Ballarat athletes.