Along with the 50km walk there are also Men's and Women's 20km races and Jr 10km and youth 5km races. With big quality fields in each I thought it would be fun to provide a few of the interesting storylines going into tomorrow.
Races starting at 7am local time. Live updates will hopefully be provided on Twitter
Here are the start lists (borrowed form Tim Erickson's brilliant weekly newsletter):
The men's 50km will be a fascinating event. From an Australian perspective there is a lot up for grabs. Chris Erickson (3:49:33 PB) will be looking for top Australian, which would give him an auto-qualifier for Rio under Athletics Australia's guidelines.
Additionally the first 2 across the line that aren't Chris will be automatic qualifiers for the World Cup in May. Look for Ian Rayson and Brendon Reading to duel it out for those 2 spots. Both these athletes have been training very well in Canberra the last month and will be chasing the new IAAF standard of 4:06 for Rio. But don't expect them to be racing for 4:05:59. Brendon is coming off a recent 10km PB and has been training much better than I've ever seen him do before, so don't expect another 62min last 10km like last year!). I suspect both athletes will be trying to walk as close to 3:55 as they can. And as head-to-head can be a deciding factor in Olympic qualification, the race within the race against these two will prove to be highly important.
From the international side of things there are a lot of unknowns. Personally I feel in good shape, but the plan has always been to take it out conservatively and try to drop a fast last 20km. I won't know if I will stick to that plan until the gun goes.
Inaki Gomez and Ben Thorne will be debuting at the 50km distance. Ben having struggled a little bit on a High Fat diet over the last month is looking to go after a fast 30km. So expect him to lead the race out. Knowing Ben though, I wouldn't be surprised to see him try and hold on for the full distance, which could create a really good race in the last 10km. Inaki is another unknown but has been training very well. Tackling the 50km distance purely so Chris will stop calling him a sissy, I wouldn't discount a sub 3:55 debut! The other international in the race is Marc Mundell, a 3:55 South African walker. With all these guys targeting between 3:50 and 3:55 it will be a very good race for the top spots!
The men's 20km will be another good race up front with Kiwi Quentin Rew, Aussie Rhydian Cowley and Japan's Isamu Fujisawa going head to head. Last year in this race Q and Isamu walked neck and neck to an 82min finish and I suspect we could see something similar tomorrow. But with Rhydian coming off a great training camp in Canberra, including a 10km PB, I think the 3 of them will be together down to the wire, and I expect Rhydian to come away with a new PB, if nothing else! (current PB 83:27).
The women's 20km is stacked with quality with 8 of the 9 competitors with PB's under 96min. Regan Lamble, after taking 2014 off, is back at it and crushing workouts with us the last month in Canberra. She's got her motivation back and when that girl is motivated, there isn't much I'd bet against her being able to do!
With IAAFs new standard of 96min many of the Aussie girls have an Olympic standard already and will have to wait until trials in February to battle it out for the 3 spots. But they'll certainly be looking to get in one another's head this weekend and impress the selectors. A couple of the big names are still missing, but head-to-head honors are still up for grabs, I expect a chase pack with Tanya, Kelly, Rachel, Steph and Nicole to try and get under the 96min standard.
From an international perspective, Kiwi (but Melbourne transplant) Alana Barber has shown over the past year that it is a useless endeavor to try and guess what she can do. Taking minutes off her 20km PB at a time, I wouldn't be surprised to see her up front giving Regan a run for her money. But given she's more of a negative split type walker, I'd expect her to stick with the chase pack for the first 10km and start to move in the 2nd half. If Regan should start to waver we could have a brilliant finish.
Men: With World Cup and World Junior standards to be had this should be a good race. Adam has had a good month of training in Canberra with the big boys and should be riding a wave of confidence. But Kyle Swan has been walking very strongly recently and Tyler, Declan and Emmet can't be discounted. I suspect a number a PB's here with it taking low 43min to win, if not faster!
Women: With only 3 women in the U20 race the quantity is low, but the quality is high with all 3 girls boasting sub 50min PBs. Jemima has to be the overwhelming favorite and again look for some potential PB's here.
Hopefully we will have some live coverage of the races on my twitter account: @evandunfee if you want to follow along.
The Men's 50km starts at 7:00am (12pm PST).