Australia's got Jared Tallent
RACE walking has never been a big-ticket item among athletics competitions.
In fact, it has been so often mocked by those who fail to understand the intricacies associated with it as a sporting endeavour.
Maybe it's the weird wiggling of the hips.
Maybe it's the funny locking of the knees.
Maybe it's the swinging of the arms.
Jared Tallent certainly endured his share of ridicule after taking up race walking while growing up in country Victoria.
"Initially some of my friends thought it was a bit of a joke when I started, gave me a little bit of s**t for it," he recalled to Australian Regional Media.
"But after a couple of months no one really cared - they knew that's what I did and they thought it was pretty cool when I went to world juniors and world youths in Hungary and Jamaica."
At 31, the unassuming race walker is now indeed the headline act of Australia's track and field team to compete in Rio - and not only due to the withdrawal of 100m hurdle champion Sally Pearson (hamstring).
He became the first Australian male track and field athlete in more than a century to win two medals at a single Games when he won bronze (20km) and silver (50km) medals in Beijing in 2008, before becoming the only Aussie male athletics competitor to win a medal at consecutive Games.
Tallent crossed the line second in the 50km in London 2012 but was, of course, elevated to first place after Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin was stripped of his results for doping.
Tallent was presented with the gold medal at an official ceremony in Melbourne in June - 1460 days after the race in London.
In turn, Tallent became one of only seven Australian men to be able to call themselves an Olympic champion in athletics, alongside Steve Hooker (2008), Ralph Doubell (1968), Herb Elliott (1960), John Winter (1948), Nick Winter (1924) and trailblazer Edwin Flack (1896).
But no Australian male athlete has claimed medals at three successive Games, which Tallent is now attempting.
"That's something that would be pretty cool to achieve," he said.
Tallent, who has been named official athletics team captain, won't just set his sights on any medal. He craves another gold.
If successful he will join Flack as one of only two male Australians to win two athletic golds. Flack won the 800m and 1500m at the inaugural modern Games in Athens in 1896.
With one arch-nemesis certain to miss and another expected to, Tallent is every chance to do so.
Kirdyapkin is, of course, part of the banned Russian track and field team.
Italian Alex Schwazer, the man who pipped Tallent for 50km race walk gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, missed the London Olympics when banned for testing positive to blood-booster EPO shortly beforehand.
He returned in May and won the 50km event at the world team championships in Rome, beating runner-up Tallent by three and a half minutes.
But the 31-year-old was provisionally banned from competition by the IAAF in June after a retest of a sample taken in January showed positive traces of steroids.
The walker, who faces a lifetime ban from the sport, has taken his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with his lawyer claiming the sample was tampered with.
Understandably, Tallent has been a frustrated soul as his sport has been dragged through the mud by drug cheats.
"You wish you didn't have these problems in sport," he said. "I just hope big changes are made for the future and athletes won't have to have these problems and can compete fairly and cleanly. The winner on the day is who the winner actually should be."
While relieved to finally get the gold that he richly deserved, Tallent would love to be crowned Olympic champion and stand atop the dais ... during the actual Games.
"It would make up for a lot of what's happened. I'm working hard for it, just doing the best I can, putting everything in," he said.
Tallent will get one chance in Rio.
Though he had suffered a slight hamstring strain and missed out on trialling for the 20km, he was named to compete in that event alongside Queenslander Dane Bird-Smith and Victorian Rhydian Cowley.
Tallent, however, has ended up pulling out of the shorter distance anyway to save himself for his bread and butter, and will race the 50km with Chris Erickson, of Victoria, and Brendon Reading, of the ACT.
"I've always enjoyed the 20km, getting out on the course, getting a feel for the competition," Tallent said.
"But the 50km has always been my focus - it's been my main event since Beijing.
"It's just going to come down to the experience I've got; the amount of championships I've raced at now.
"I think I'll be able to handle the situation."
And hopefully it will be Tallent who is the one that will be laughing.