Alana Barber drew on support all round her as she fought her way to a silver medal in the women’s 20km walk today.
Barber finished second in 1h 34min 18s, behind only Australian Jemma Montag, who won in 1h 32min 50s.
After leading in the early stages, the New Zealander settled into third behind Montag and another Australian, Claire Tallent, until Tallent was disqualified about 4km from the finish.
“With about 5km to go my legs started cramping and I got really worried,” Barber said. “A guy I didn’t know ran along beside me and shouted, ‘You’ve just got to keep going’ and that’s what I did.”
Barber, 30, said what made the occasion even more special for her was that her mother, Shirley (nee Somerville) had run for New Zealand in the 800m in the 1974 Commonwealth Games, and that her parents were both on the Gold Coast to watch her compete. “Dad hasn’t been out of New Zealand since 1973, so this was a really, really big deal for him to come over.”
Barber said she went into the event thinking she would just walk her own race and concentrate on what she needed to do.
“At one point all three Australians were ahead of me and I sort of expected that, but I focused on my own walking.”
She said she saw Tallent on the ground with about 4km to go, which meant she’d moved from third position to second. “That was a shock. It goes to show you have to be patient sometimes.”
In the men’s 20km race, New Zealander Quentin Rew finished fifth. He was timed at 1h 21min 47s, just over two minutes behind winner, Dane Bird Smith of Australia.
“The pace was on right from the start,” Rew said. “I came here to go after a medal so I knew I had to attack it. The first 10km was the fastest I have ever gone through that stage. After that I found myself in No Man’s Land a bit.
“I didn’t want to try to go faster and blow up, but I could maintain my pace. If the guys ahead had dropped off, I’d have been ready. But I was getting hot and tired and starting to cramp. I had to be careful.”
Rew, 33, a veteran of two Olympic Games, seemed slightly disappointed with his placing. “I came here to get a medal and there are no medals for fifth.”
Both New Zealand walkers commented on the excitement and enthusiasm of the spectators. The walks were so popular it makes the decision of the 2014 Glasgow Games organisers not to include walking on the schedule questionable.Gold Coast 2018 Christchurch 1974 Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Quentin Rew Alana Barber Athletics