EVENT THREATENED: Australia's Jared Tallent fears the 50km walk could be cut from the 2020 Olympics
EVENT THREATENED: Australia's Jared Tallent fears the 50km walk could be cut from the 2020 Olympics Jae C. Hong

Tallent fears axing of 50km walk from Olympics

OLYMPIC gold medallist Jared Tallent's dream of winning a medal in the same event at four consecutive Games in Tokyo in 2020 could be destroyed next week if his pet event is axed.

It's understood the IAAF will vote on whether to scrap the 50km racewalk from all world championship and Olympic programs from 2018, and replace the 20km walk with a half-marathon distance (21km) as part of wider scheduling reforms.

Tallent and other leading international racewalkers learned of the proposal this week and have penned a joint letter pleading with the IAAF to save the event for the Tokyo Olympics at least.

Australia's most successful male track and field athlete ever, Tallent has raced the 50km walk in Beijing 2008 (silver medal), London 2012 (gold), and Rio 2016 (silver).

He said any decision to scrap the 50km walk - which was introduced to the Olympic program in 1932 - would be "incredibly sad".

"Obviously I want to race the 50km in Tokyo, it's been my goal to win a medal at a fourth Games in a row in the same event. No one has achieved that in the walk," Tallent told News Corp.

"I would still compete in the 21km, I've had success in that (20km) in the past, but the 50km has a lot of history and always has a lot of drama.

"It's like the marathon in the running context and has always been seen as the grand event of our sport, so it would be incredibly sad to see it go."

There is growing speculation the IAAF council will vote on the proposal at their April 12-13 meeting but the organisation is yet to confirm that publicly. It's believed a statement will be made in the next 24 hours.

Athletics Australia chief executive Phil Jones said it would rally against any such changes.

"Athletics Australia wholeheartedly supports the continued inclusion of the 50km walk on the athletics programme and we will be making every effort to ensure this outcome ahead of any final decision," Jones said.

Tallent has reached out to IAAF Oceania representative Geoff Gardner ahead of next week's meeting which could have major ramifications for athletes in the middle of another Olympic cycle.

The current format for major athletics meets sees the men race over 20km and 50km and the women race over 20km only.

The men's 50km walk in Rio was one of the most dramatic races of the Games when Tallent defied stifling heat and looked headed for a second straight gold medal, only to be caught in the closing stages by Slovakian Matej Toth and finish second. An exhausted Tallent was taken from the track in a wheelchair.

The joint letter from top racewalking athletes to the IAAF has pleaded with the sport's governing body to embrace the 50km event rather than exclude it.

"The 50km walk embodies many of the Olympic values, most notably how to endure," the letter says.

"It is one of the few remaining free events on the Olympic program, allowing all to witness and engage with athletes in their pursuit of excellence.

"Having two men's and only one women's walks at major championships is based on an outdated and heinously wrong assumption.

"We commend the IAAF on taking measures to ensure the inequality based on gender is closing and celebrate the first official women's 50km walk world record.

"We propose the current schedule of three events is maintained until Tokyo ... with athlete representation it is our desire to create a working group to assess the future of the event beyond 2020.

"These measures ensure sufficient athlete consultation, maintenance of athlete's livelihoods and rewards the investment of national federations in support of their athletes to 2020.

"We call on Thomas Bach and the IOC executive, Sebastian Coe and the IAAF Council to be transparent in this decision making process and include the athletes in any further discussions in regards to walking at the Olympics and IAAF world championships."

Tallent, who this month was named Athletics Australia's male athlete of the year for 2016, is preparing for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where racewalking returns to the program after it was scrapped for Glasgow in 2014.

News Corp Australia

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