Claire Tallent was leading the race when she received her third and final red card. (AAP: Tracey Nearmy)
A shattered Claire Tallent was disqualified while leading the women’s 20-kilometre walk at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, handing the gold medal to fellow Australian Jemima Montag.
Tallent was involved in an engrossing battle with Montag around the Currumbin beachfront course when she was shown a third red card, indicating she had been disqualified for an infringement.
The incident took place just before the 18-kilometre mark when Tallent was leading Montag by about 10 metres.
The drama of the moment was reminiscent of Jane Saville’s gut-wrenching disqualification at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Tallent, whose husband Jared is Australia’s most decorated race walker, collapsed to her knees sobbing at the realisation of being disqualified so close to the finish.
She knew she had already been shown two red cards but at the point of the race she was mindful she needed to push the pace if she was going to win the gold.
“I guess I picked them up on the lap where we made the breakaway around 8 kilometres and then nothing changed for the next 10 kilometres,” an almost inconsolable Tallent said after the race.
“I guess I kind of settled for silver in my head and was holding back a lot. But I knew it was my day and then she came back to me with a few laps to go and I was like ‘what do I do now?’.
“There was no way I would be content with knowing that I didn’t try and win. You’re in between a rock and a hard place, what do you do?
“Do you sit back and be content knowing you didn’t give it your all or do you give it all and have your heart broken.”
‘She’s being a beautiful sport’
Such is the class of the two-time Olympian, Tallent, who won silver in the event at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, chose not to detract from Montag’s victory.
She embraced Montag not long after her 20-year-old teammate had crossed the finish line and congratulated her on the victory.
“All credit to Jemima. She was the best on the day,” said Tallent, who was nursing her 10-month-old baby Harvey as she spoke to the media.
“She’s a great, great girl and she’s got such a big future in front of her and I know she is going to represent Australia with pride for many, many years to come.
“And good on her, first crack at the Commonwealth Games and she walks away with the gold medal I couldn’t be more happier, more thrilled for her. She’s a great girl, truly well deserved.”
Australians Jemima Montag, Claire Tallent and Beki Smith race Kiwi Alana Barber on the Currumbin course. (AAP: Tracey Nearmy)
Montag was touched by the dignity shown by Tallent, who was still trying to comprehend the devastation of being disqualified.
“I was just saying ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry’ and she just said ‘no, no, no, don’t you say that, enjoy this moment, this is your moment’,” Montag said.
“She’s being a beautiful sport about it.”
Montag said she was “very upset” about Tallent being rubbed out so late in the race.
“I’m devastated,” she said.
“You don’t want it to happen to anyone but with another Aussie it’s heartbreaking and I really thought we would be able to push each other through to a fast time in those last few laps.
“I definitely wanted her with me right through to the end.”
The 20-year-old Montag, who was competing in just her third 20-kilometre walk, won in one hour, 32 minutes and 50 seconds.
It is the sixth time Australia has won gold in the event from its seven appearances as part of the Games program.
Montag’s triumph gave Australia the double in the walks, with Dane Bird-Smith winning the men’s race earlier in the morning.
New Zealand’s Alana Barber (1:34.18) took the silver behind Montag and Bethan Davies (1:36.08) of Wales the bronze.
Australia’s third entrant, Beki Smith, finished sixth in 1:40.41.