Seven years ago, it was for being disqualified 8 miles into the London Olympic women’s 20-kilometer race walk. On Saturday, the Australian was “overwhelmed” for happier reasons.
In covering 50 kilometers in 4 hours, 12 minutes and 44 seconds, Tallent survived “brutal” conditions to win Santee’s latest world-class walk event.
But this time, her cry was of defiance — with a plea to the International Olympic Committee.
“People that say that the women’s 50K isn’t deserving to be an Olympic event — it’s just not true,” she said after averaging 8:09 a mile for 31.1 miles. “I beat all these guys today. I was second across the line.”
Only David Velasquez of Ecuador, who also won a $2,000 first-place prize in the Waterbridge Capital International 50km Challenge, had a better mark: 4:08:32 (8-minute mile pace).
Although she easily beat the 4:30 qualifying standard for the IAAF World Athletics Championships this September in Doha, Qatar, the 37-year-old Tallent also hopes to race the 50K at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
That’s not yet official. Track and field’s world governing body, the IAAF, has recommended adding the 50K women’s eventto the Olympic program. But the IOC hasn’t OK’d it. A decision is expected in March.
“Women can do it,” Tallent said as event DJ Lennie Howell of Ramona played The Human League’s 1981 hit “Don’t you want me (baby).”
Tallent decried discrimination in the event — with men having long contested the 20K and 50K walks in the Games but women having done only 10K or 20k since 1992.
“You can’t tell me that I’m any less deserving than my husband for having a shot at Olympic glory,” she said. “It’s just absurd.”
Tallent has been married 10 years to Jared Tallent, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 50K who also has two silvers and a bronze in his three Games.
Asked why she “switched” last year from the 20K to the 50K, Tallent balked at the premise.
“It wasn’t a switch — it was never the opportunity,” she said. “To make an Olympic team, you had to be a 20K walker. And I think, deep down, I was always a 50K walker.”
“Should the women’s 50K be added, I’ll be the first woman to ever qualify,” she said. “It means so, so much.”
Just missing the 4:30 women’s standard for the IAAF Doha world meet was Robyn Stevens, a 35-year-old model and costume designer from Mountain View.
The results show Stevens won the U.S. women’s title (and $8,000 first prize) in her 50K debut in 4:34:24 (8:50 mile pace). But about two minutes of that was spent in premature celebration, being photographed with the American flag.
She had finished a lap early.
USATF official Jeff Haspell rang his cowbell, signaling she had a 1.25-kilometer lap to go, but Stevens ignored it.
She said she mistrusted the lap counters, having been a victim of past mistakes (made to go an extra lap in 2017). So she “went by my watch” — a pedometer that indicated she’d gone 50.5 kilometers.
Her father, Robert Stevens, said he saw one official direct her to the finish line prematurely.
But officials said they saw bystanders urging her to head for the finish instead of make another wide turn back onto Town Center Parkway.
It fell to two-time Olympic race walker Allen James to put Stevens back on track.
Having dropped out after 20 miles, James was free to observe the finishes. He rushed to inform Stevens of her status.
“I’m glad she didn’t fight me,” said the 54-year-old former American record holder. “It was mission critical to get her going again.”
(James has seen snafus before. He recalled the 1996 Atlanta Olympic mishap in which a marshal led Australian walker Duane Cousins to finish a lap early. Cousins eventually received an official apology.)
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Olympian Willie Banks gives high-fives to Santana High School cheerleaders before start of the concurrent races. Photo by Ken Stone
Former world-record triple jumper Willie Banks leads rhythmic clapping before start of race. Photo by Ken Stone
Seconds after start, Nick Christie of El Cajon (wearing bib No. 1) shares lead of 50K. Photo by Ken Stone
The sun is reflected in shades worn by Jamie Soliva, who took fifth in the women’s 20K race. Photo by Ken Stone
Nick Christie (left) and David Velasquez pushed each other for much of the race before Christies dropped out. Photo by Ken Stone
Race director Tracy Sundlun interviews Willie Banks of Carlsbad, America’s new representative to the governing body IAAF. Photo by Ken Stone
Logan Roberts Jr. collapses from exhaustion after his big personal record in the 10K race walk. Photo by Ken Stone
At 59, Ian Whatley of Greenville, South Carolina, was racing his 34th 50K. He would take fifth in the U.S. men’s race. Photo by Ken Stone
Women’s 50K pioneer Erin Taylor-Talcott, suffering the effects of a weeklong bout of strep throat, had to quit after 11 miles. Photo by Ken Stone
Two-time Olympian Eder Sanchez of Mexico (right) paces Andreas Gustafsson, but later dropped out. Photo by Ken Stone
Masters record-holder Darlene Backlund of Palm Springs was the last 50K finisher in 7:29:04 — a 14:28 mile pace at age 73. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent is handed water for drinking and pouring at her aid station. Photo by Ken Stone
Two-time Olympian Tim Seaman, a Cuyamaca College coach, also guided some race walkers in Santee. Photo by Ken Stone
Nick Christie passes a gaggle of Santana High School cheerleaders several hours into 50K race. Photo by Ken Stone
Santana High School cheerleaders record their group during USATF National 50K Race Walk Championships in Santee. Photo by Ken Stone
Laps left in 50K (for the leaders at least) were displayed near the finish line. Photo by Ken Stone
Santana High School cheerleaders check out something on a phone during the race ending after 7 1/2 hours. Photo by Ken Stone
Race walkers could customize their hydration, passing tables with their preferred drinks every lap. Photo by Ken Stone
Race walkers were given sponges to splash themselves on a day when temps soared to the low 80s. Photo by Ken Stone
Adriel Barba, 10, and Nireya Arroyo, 5, hold signs for Matthew Forgues, eventual winner of the U.S. men’s 50K title. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent is a blur as she passes the portable start-finish line, demonstrating straight leg action. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent and race winner David Velasquez pass Nick Christie, bent over from stomach issues that forced him to quit after 40 kilometers. Photo by Ken Stone
Carmen Jackinsky of Aloha, Oregon, was on a 6:15 pace for the 50K but had to drop out due to the heat. Photo by Ken Stone
Jessica Heiser-Whatley, whose father, Ian Whatley, took fourth in the U.S. men’s 50K, dances to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Photo by Ken Stone
High school senior Logan Roberts Jr. wears his 10K gold medal as 50K racers pass behind him. Photo by Ken Stone
David Velasquez breaks through tape to win the Waterbridge Capital International 50km Challenge. Photo by Ken Stone
David Velasquez plows through tape to win the Waterbridge Capital International 50km Challenge. Photo by Ken Stone
Ecuador’s David Velasquez begins falling after being the first overall finisher in the Santee 50K. Photo by Ken Stone
A totally spent David Velasquez rests on ground after finishing 50K in 4:08:32. Photo by Ken Stone
David Velasquez, exhausted on a hot day for race walkers, rests for a few moments after his 50K finish. Photo by Ken Stone
David Velasquez slowly gets up after winning a draining 50K race walk in Santee. Photo by Ken Stone
Paul Nestor photographs international men’s champion David Velasquez after his 50K. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent finishes 50K and wins $2,000 in Waterbridge Capital International 50km Challenge. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent raises finish tape after smashing Santee 50K course record by 9 minutes. Photo by Ken Stone
Photographers get the men’s and women’s 50K winners together — Claire Tallent of Australia and David Velasquez of Ecuador. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent tears up after 50K finish, later saying: “Should the women’s 50K be added to the 2020 Olympics), I’ll be the first woman to ever qualify.” Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent breaks down after 50K finish, saying she was “overwhelmed” by the moment in which she potentially qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent of Australia poses for a selfie after qualifying for the IAAF world championships in the 50K race walk. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent of Australia blows a kiss toward a phone after winning the international women’s 50K race and taking second overall. Photo by Ken Stone
Robyn Stevens poses after mistakenly finishing the 50K a lap early. She’d soon take another lap but still win the U.S. women’s title. Photo by Ken Stone
Jeff Haspell uses cowbell to let Lydia McGranahan of Keizer, Oregon, know she has a lap left in 50K. Photo by Ken Stone
USATF official Jeff Haspell signals the bell lap — one 1.25K loop to go — for every 50K walker. Photo by Ken Stone
Patrick Casey of Reedsport, Oregon, catches his wife, Stephanie in his arms upon her finishing her first 50K. Photo by Ken Stone
Former 50K race walker Karen Karavanic of Portland, Oregon, officiating at Santee, cheers a 50K finisher. Photo by Ken Stone
Race director Tracy Sundlun wears T-shirt from ReShod Walking: “If racewalking were easy, it would be called running.” Photo by Ken Stone
Stephanie Casey shows wear and tear on her toes after taking second in the U.S. women’s 50K in 5 hours, 4 seconds. Photo by Ken Stone
Stephanie Casey, holding 11-month-old daughter Mirabelle, and Lydia McGranahan applaud Nathan Vanderwall as he finishes 50K. Photo by Ken Stone
Patrick Casey records medal ceremony for U.S. women’s 50K, including his wife, Stephanie, at left. Photo by Ken Stone
DJ Lennie Howell kept to theme, playing songs such as “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by Scottish duo The Proclaimers. “But I would walk 500 miles. And I would walk 500 more.” Photo by Ken Stone
Two-time Olympian Paola Pérez of Ecuador stretches before start of 50K. She would later drop out. Photo by Ken Stone
Nick Christie (third with backward cap) heads out in 50K start in 60-degree weather. The temps would rise at least another 20 degrees. Photo by Ken Stone
Dozens head toward the sun at 7:30 a.m., racing to the Missing Persons song “Walkin’ in L.A.,” with refrain “Nobody walks in L.A.” Photo by Ken Stone
With Santana cheerleaders urging them on, Nick Christie leads David Velasquez early in 50K race. Photo by Ken Stone
Walkers throw long shadows not long after 7:30 a.m. start of all races near Santee Trolley Square. Photo by Ken Stone
A medic helps an exhausted Logan Roberts Jr. after he achieved a huge improvement in his 10K race walk best. Photo by Ken Stone
Joean Lu, 19, of Vancouver, British Columbia, wins the women’s 10K walk in 54:24. Photo by Ken Stone
Age-group medals await finishers as Nick Christie leads eventual winner David Velasquez at northern turn. Photo by Ken Stone
Race director Tracy Sundlun interviews men’s 10K walk winner Logan Roberts Jr. Photo by Ken Stone
Nick Christie, on the outside, follows Michael Mannozzi around cones behind the Old Navy store. Photo by Ken Stone
Legs coated in sweat, Nick Christie of El Cajon wore bib number 1. He would later drop out. Photo by Ken Stone
Men’s 50K winner David Velasquez of Ecuador rounds southern end of course near Mission Gorge Road. “My mother died 10 weeks ago, so this was for her,” he said in Spanish. Photo by Ken Stone
Swedish native Andreas Gustafsson, 37, of Las Vegas adjusts his shades on the way to taking second in the international men’s 50K. Photo by Ken Stone
Nayeli Cisneros yells encouragement to her big sister, Anali Cisneros, who went on to win the women’s 20K walk. Photo by Ken Stone
Large amplifiers were placed in eight locations along route to carry mostly recorded music courtesy DJ Lennie Howell. Photo by Ken Stone
One of two aid stations offered drinks to any walker. Another carried personal liquids. Photo by Ken Stone
Lap counters record times on assigned athletes to track their progress in 31.1-mile race. Photo by Ken Stone
The end of the Green Line was near start and finish of race walks adjacent to Santee Town Center. Photo by Ken Stone
Lydia McGranahan motors past board reporting rule violations — a bent knee over lead foot or having both feet off ground at same time. Photo by Ken Stone
Sixty Santana High School cheerleaders pose for a prerace photo before spreading out along the 1.25-kilometer course. Photo by Ken Stone
Adriel Barba, 10, and Nireya Arroyo, 5, cheer on Matthew Forgues, eventual winner of the U.S. men’s 50K title. Photo by Ken Stone
Bruce Logan, 54, of New York passes 24 Hour Fitness during one of 40 laps of 50K race walk in Santee. Photo by Ken Stone
Michael “Giuseppe” Mannozzi would go onto finish third in the U.S. championship 50K race. Photo by Ken Stone
Race walker in adidas strides past spent sponges used to cool off walkers in Santee. Photo by Ken Stone
Top three women’s 20K finishers Anali Cisneros (center), Celina Lepe (left) and Victoria Heiser-Whatley join hands on stand as 50K walkers continue their race. Photo by Ken Stone
Claire Tallent pumps her fist yards away from qualifying for 2019 world track championships in the 50K. Photo by Ken Stone
No matter the circumstances, walkers Saturday agreed that conditions were harsh. Two mothers in the field told Times of San Diego that the sunny, low 80s temps in the afternoon made the 50K “worse than childbirth.”
Of the 17 male and 15 female starters, 10 failed to finish — an attrition rate of 31 percent. And five of the 15 entrants in a concurrent 20K walk also dropped out. (See results here.)
Erin Taylor-Talcott, considered the “godmother” of the women’s 50K for her pivotal efforts to gain international acceptance of the event, came looking for a 4:30 IAAF qualifier as well.
But a “weak and shaky” Taylor-Talcott, 40, had come down with strep throat more than a week earlier and quit the race after about 11 miles. “I’m still on antibiotics,” she said.
El Cajon’s Nick Christie led much of the way, but also called it quits with 10 kilometers left. He had thrown up earlier.
“Stomach wasn’t working,” Christie said a month after taking a red-eye flight to Rochester, New York, and setting an American indoor record in the 10K race walk.
Still hoping to make the Tokyo Olympic team — in either the 20K or 50K — Christie said a 3:55 men’s qualifying mark for the 31-mile race was “still in the cards.”
“What today told me is I should get faster at 20K,” he said. “If I had gone out slower (Saturday), I would have been good.”
The top American male — and winner of $8,000 of a $50,000 American purse — was Matthew Forgues of Boothbay, Maine — now living in Chula Vista and training with Olympian and Cuyamaca College coach Tim Seaman.
He clocked 4:27:28 — an 8:37 mile pace.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day — even to himself — was 18-year-old Logan Roberts Jr. of Burley, Washington.
A senior at South Kitsnap High School, he collapsed just beyond the finish line of the 10-kilometer race, requiring medical attention.
“He pushed himself to the limit here today,” said race director Tracy Sundlun, who announced the event for more than seven hours in his own endurance challenge.
But Roberts recovered to tell how his time of 48:16 qualified him for a world junior championships.
Also making a breakthrough was 55-year-old Kathryn Grimes of Newberg, Oregon, whose 5:37:30 smashed the American age-group record of 6:31:52 by Cathy Mayfield in 2008. (Fellow W55 Carmen Jackinsky was another heat dropout. She then spent time staffing her ReShod walking shoes booth in the shopping center.)
At 73, the oldest finisher was Darlene Backlund of Palm Springs, who smiled her way to a time of 7:29:04 — well off her own American age-group record of 6:50:24 (set two years ago in Santee.)
Taylor-Talcott, who normally travels to Santee with her race-walking husband, David, said he had to stay home in Oswego, New York, this weekend to work.
But she vowed to work to earn a spot on the 2020 Olympic team.
“I’m going to qualify for Tokyo,” she said.
She also praised meet organizers.
“They always do a great job,” Taylor-Talcott said. “If they can just control the weather a little better — that would be nice.”