Walkers from around the country and across the gloe are headed to Hobart for the Australian 20km Race Walking Championships, an event which doubles as Round 1 of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge.
It will be the third edition of the event and a loaded field is arriving to battle out for not only the national title, but also a place on the Australian Olympic team.
Leading the charge will be 2008 Beijing dual Olympic medalist Jared Tallent. The AIS athlete has won the past two editions of the race and will start as favourite, despite being beaten over 5000m at last week’s Sydney Track Classic by Canadian Inaki Gomez.
Tallent’s wife, Claire, will also be looking for a hat-trick of titles in the event, as she goes in search of selection for his second Olympics.
Waving the flag for Tasmania will be our own race walking romantic pair of Daniel Coleman and Stephanie Stigwood.
Stigwood has been selected in the Australian team that will go head to head with New Zealand in tonight’s event, in the Oceania Race Walking Trophy. While Coleman has his own agenda in his first major race as an open level athlete.
“I’m a chance to make the World Race Walking cup team and a solid performance here could get me on the team.
“I’ve still got a 20km Personal best from 2008 from when I was a junior, so this weekend is basically the first race I’ve gone into as a senior fit and ready to fight. I’m looking forward to smashing my 4-year-old PB,” 23-year-old Coleman said.
The former TIS walker was an Australian All Schools champion and headed to Canberra after school, to work on his race walking craft along with the nations best.
“Moving to Canberra after school didn’t work for me, as I’m quite prone to injuries. So now I’m back in Hobart, working, studying and training under a new coach via correspondence in Dave Smith,” Coleman explained.
“I’ve only done one real race this season, so I’m pumped up for tonight. I did a 3000m PB before Christmas and walked a PB at the Albert Johnson memorial race and it was my first PB since 2008. So I should smash my 20km PB and if all goes well I should give the world cup qualifier a crack which is 88minutes,” the Southern Saints athlete said.
Saturday’s race is the first in 2012 of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge and the only race to be held in the Southern Hemisphere.
“It’s exciting. Everyone dreams of competing in a big race infront of their hometown. I went to college 2 blocks up in Barrack Street and primary school not far away, so I know the area well.
“Our Australian walkers are awesome, it’s the strongest event Australia has had and we’ve finished in the top 8 in the Olympics for the men each year since 1996. Our dominance is comparable to swimming on a world scale,” Coleman said.
Perhaps the only downside for Coleman, is the fact he will be too busy concentrating to watch some of the worlds best in action.
“I’m tipping Jarred Tallent to win. Dane Bird Smith could be one to surprise with an Olympic qualifier also. But the Canadian Inaki Gomez beat Jarred last week and the Indian Gurmeet Singh is already qualified for London, so he will be one to watch also,” Coleman explained.
The 20km race will take place over a 2km circuit along Morrison Street and Castray Esplanade, beginning at 6pm.
With thanks to Athletics Tasmania
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