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Golden smile as Tallent finally receives Olympic gold

17 June 2016

ATHLETICS: Australian race walking champion Jared Tallent has been presented with the gold medal for the 50km walk at the 2012 London Olympic Games, at an official ceremony in Melbourne today.

In front of hundreds of family, friends and fans he was able to stand on the top of an Olympic podium on the Treasury Steps with the gold medal around his neck and sing the national anthem.

It was an honour that he should have been able to enjoy at the finish of a personal best performance in London but he was beaten across the line by Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin. The Russian was later confirmed as a doping cheat and 1405 days later the gold medal is now with the real champion.

Tallent couldn’t keep the smile off his face for the moment he had been working towards across two Olympic Games and a 15 year international career.

“I can’t believe this day has finally happened,” Tallent told the crowd.

“This is the moment I didn’t get to all those days ago and this has been absolutely special.

“Growing up in Ballarat I used to train around the lake where the rowing was held for the 1956 Olympics. I’ve always been inspired by the Olympic Games and dreamt of being an Olympic champion.

“To be presented with the first gold medal in Melbourne since 1956 is extra special. And to join Sally Pearson as an athletics champion from London is a great honour. This is now two gold for our sport from 2012 and Australia moves to eighth on the medal tally.”

Tallent thanked his wife Claire who is an Olympian from the 2008 and 2012 Games and now his coach.

“Claire has been by my side my whole career working together to achieve this dream.”

He also made special mention of his coach from 2008 and 2012 Brent Vallance, his nutritionist Louise Burke and his parents.

Tallent now has the full set of Olympic medals, following his silver in the 50km and bronze in the 20km from Beijing 2008. He goes into Rio as the defending champion and Olympic record holder.

At the press conference after the ceremony he told the media.

“It means everything to me to have the ceremony held now before I head off overseas. I leave on Monday to prepare for Rio and I won’t be back in Australia until after the Games.

“To have the gold medal in my hand, I am the Olympic champion and I have everything that comes with being the Olympic champion. So when I stand on the start-line in Rio I’ll have the motivation and the confidence to hopefully defend the Olympic title in Rio.

“I have to thank the Australian Olympic Committee and John Coates for organising this medal ceremony so quickly. It would have been devastating to be on the start line in Rio as the Olympic champion and not have the medal.”

Coates, the IOC Vice President and AOC President, who has pushed to have the ceremony as memorable as possible in Tallent’s home state of Victoria, was given the honour of presenting the medal by IOC President Thomas Bach.

 “Presenting an Olympic medal is always an honour, but more so on this occasion to be part of rectifying, in some way, the massive injustice perpetrated on Jared by a doping cheat and aided by a Russian Anti-Doping Agency and Russian Athletics Federation that were rotten to the core,” Coates said.

“Jared, through all of this you have shown great dignity. You are a great Australian and it is my honour to present you with your gold medal.” 

2016 Team Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller presented him with a special blazer. The Rio Team blazer includes the names of all Australian Olympic gold medallists but when they were produced for the whole Team Tallent was not yet the Olympic champion. When it was official Chiller had a new lining put in his 2016 blazer so he did not miss this honour. 

Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove also presented Tallent with the prestigious Order of Australia medal to add extra significance to the occasion.

Tallent reflected on his unique situation of receiving the gold medal only 49 days before the next Olympics.

“I feel like I’m one of the lucky athletes to have this happen. I know there are other athletes who have been cheated out of gold medals, particularly in my event, even as recently as Beijing where gold medallists missed out because of Russian cheats.

“This is really, really special for me today but I feel really sad and sorry for those athletes that have missed out.”

This presentation comes hours before the sport governing body is due to make a recommendation of whether the Russian athletics team will be allowed to compete at the Rio Olympic Games.

Tallent believes Russian athletes should not be on start line in athletics in Rio.

“The evidence is quite clear that Russians have not done enough to change,” Tallent said. “If Russia competes it will tarnish the Games.

“This day was amazing but it should have happened in London 1405 days ago and that is the clear message.

“We don’t want drug cheats at the Olympic Games. We want pure sport and hardworking honest athletes at the Games.”

View a gallery of the ceremony and Jared's Olympic career here>>>

Andrew Reid

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