Tallent on ‘Rio redemption’ with walking mates

Published 8 January 2016 (AEDT)

Reading, Tallent and Erickson selected for Rio 2016 © Getty Images/ Athletics Australia

RIO TEAM: Beaten by an accused drug cheat in the 50km walk at the London Olympics, Jared Tallent has stronger motivation than most for redemption in Rio. His place on the start line in August was confirmed by Australian Olympic Team selectors today, along with four other distance champions with big plans for Brazil.

“It’s always pretty amazing to be selected for the Olympics but this one’s going to be pretty special after what happened at the last Olympics,” Tallent said.

“Really aiming high for this one. I’m still hoping I’ll get the gold medal from London but I’m just making sure that I’m doing everything possible this time so hopefully I won’t have those problems arise again and I’m so well prepared I can get some redemption in Rio.”

Fellow walker Chris Erickson is off to his third Games but the first in his favoured 50km event. To him it feels like his ‘first Games’. And the athlete he coaches, Brendon Reading, will fulfil a 20 year Olympic dream when he races in Rio.

Tallent, 31, is already a three-time Olympic medallist [and if he wins a fourth in Rio he will surpass Stan Rowley (three bronze) and become the Australian athletics male with the most Olympic medals.] But it is the gold medal from London that was awarded to convicted Russian doper Sergey Kirdyapkin, which has driven him every day since.

Tallent, who is also chasing selection in the 20km, is making sure what happened in London, and throughout his career, is a positive motivation and not a distraction. 

He is very pleased to have Erickson and Reading as his 50km teammates in Brazil.

"It’s a great group and we’re all great friends and these are the best guys to be on the Team with in this event.”

Erickson, 35, has plenty of Olympic experience from the Beijing and London Olympics as a 20km competitor, but now to be selected for the 50km in Rio he has the excitement of a rookie.

“I’m extremely stoked to be going to my third Games but for me I somewhat look at it like it’s my first Olympics again,” Erickson said. 

“I finally get my chance at the 50 which is my preferred event and the other satisfying thing is to be selected at the earliest possible opportunity as well. It’s nice to be able to have a full preparation over the next seven months and really look to have the performance of my life in Rio and push for that top-8.”

Erickson juggles his number one priority of being a family man with his two young children, his 150-160 kilometres of training a week and his work as a student support officer at Deakin University four days a week.

“As you get a bit older its more about training smarter than training harder. I get the big kilometre loads out when I need to and really focus on the quality around that and getting in to a great routine and fit things in around family.” 

His first coach was his father Tim Erickson OAM who represented Australia at the 1978 and 1982 Commonwealth Games. Tim was extremely unlucky not to go to both the 1976 and 1980 Olympics. The 50km was dropped from Montreal and he was selected for Moscow but due to the boycott and withdrawal of funding, he was dropped along with a number of other athletes. 

“I have used his disappointment of not making an Olympics as a motivating factor for much of my career,” Erickson said. 

Brent Vallance coaches Erickson and now has coached an athlete to his fourth consecutive Olympics. Vallance coached Tallent to his three Olympic medals before Tallent moved to train with his wife after London. 

Remarkably Erickson coaches Reading, and is very proud of his achievement to coach him on to his first Olympic Team. They started working together in 2010 when they both lived in Canberra and for the past few years via distance. Erickson will have the unique pressure of coaching a competitor at the Olympics.

“A few years ago Brendon and I saw an opportunity in the 50km for Rio and we mapped out a plan to try to get him under the four-hour mark to get qualified. It was incredibly rewarding in the Trial to watch him race so maturely and do that wonderful performance.”

Reading, who started his athletics career in Little Athletics 20 years ago and initially showed promise as a high jumper before switching, walked a 24 minute personal best (3:55.03) at the selection trial in Melbourne. In only his second 50km race he beat his training partner Ian Rayson and achieved his Olympic dream by a mere 14 seconds.

Reading was an outstanding junior, including silver at the 2005 Australian Youth Olympic Festival but until now had never made a senior Australian Team.

“I’m really excited to be selected, it’s been a long time coming,” Reading said. “

“We were targeting the selection trial for a long time and to put together the race that I did, it couldn’t have gone any better. We thought after London with the retirement of Nathan Deakes that Rio could be a great chance.”

Reading acknowledges his junior coaches for having a long-term development plan and his great support network for helping throughout his career.

“My family and the race walking community is a great group of people, so I think it’s always been quite easy to keep going through injury and mishap because it’s a great group of people to have around you.

“Motivation has never really been an issue for me. To see people like Jared Tallent and how hard they work and watch them succeed is a big help.”

Australian Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller is thrilled to welcome these three dedicated athletes on to the 2016 Team.

“I love the comraderie that these walkers show each other and what a remarkable story each of them have,” Chiller said.

“We hope Jared is awarded the London gold medal before Rio but he is doing a wonderful job of controlling what he can and making sure he will be tougher than ever to beat for the gold in Rio.”

Athletics is expected to be the largest section of the 2016 Australian Olympic Team. Also selected today were 10,000m runners David McNeill and Eloise Wellings. >>>> See more on that story here.

The next selections for the Athletics Section will follow the 20km walk trials in February. There will be some selections following the track and field selection trials in April, marathon selections will be confirmed in May, and final track and field athletes announced in July when the entire 2016 Australian Olympic Team is finalised.

ANDREW REID
AOC

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