Tallent's long walk for gold reaches final destination

Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:00am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - For an athlete accustomed to pounding 50 kilometer routes, Australian race walker Jarred Tallent has traveled a longer than necessary road to secure the London Olympics gold medal that was denied him for nearly four years by a drugs cheat.

On Friday, the journey ended on the steps of Melbourne's Old Treasury Building, where the 31-year-old mounted a makeshift podium and bowed his head to accept the 50km gold at an emotional ceremony attended by Olympic dignitaries and a modest crowd of cheering well-wishers.

Although 1,405 days have passed since he finished second behind Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin at The Mall in London, Tallent beamed with joy on a drizzly winter's day as he savored the feeling of finally being recognized as Olympic champion.

"I can't believe this day has finally happened," he told a throng of media, office workers and school-children huddling under umbrellas.

"Unfortunately, I didn't get to stand on the podium in London all those days ago but coming here to Melbourne, so close to home, only 100 kilometers from where I grew up on a potato farm, this has just made it absolutely special."

Tallent's moment, however delayed, was a ray of light in the all-pervading gloom that has enveloped world athletics since a string of doping and corruption scandals erupted last year.

Less than seven weeks before the opening ceremony at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the International Association of Athetics Federations (IAAF) is poised to decide on whether to lift its ban on Russian athletes competing at international competition.

Russian athletics was banned in November after an investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping.   Continued...