You can compare Erin Taylor-Talcott to Danica Patrick, Annika Sorenstam or Michelle Wie. You can draw comparisons to Billy Jean King in the Battle of the Sexes II. Each story helped to shape the culture in their respective sports and that’s exactly what Taylor-Talcott has done.
After reaching the qualifying standard, Taylor-Talcott’s initial intention wasn’t to become a pioneer for women’s race walk. Without an Olympic 50 km distance for women, she began seeking approval to compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials 50 km Men’s Race Walk January 22 in Santee, Calif. While it wasn’t by design, she quickly drew comparisons to the names listed above.
Her story started small, but built into something fitting of an Agatha Christie novel or a made for TV movie. Not only the first woman to compete in the men’s race, but Taylor-Talcott will also have a second rare opportunity – competing next to her husband, Dave Talcott, who also reached the qualifying standard. It gives a twist to her story not seen with Patrick, Sorenstam, Wie or King.
“First, to be able to do this, second, to be the first woman to do it and, third, to be able to do it with my husband is so amazing,” Taylor-Talcott said. “I just wish it would hurry up and get here.”
When the race does arrive in just over a week, it will be a significant mark on a whirlwind journey for Taylor-Talcott. She sought entry for two months into the men’s field before finally being allowed to compete. She will compete in these Olympic Trials with the stipulation that she cannot attempt to gain access into the 2012 Olympic Games. However, her chances of advancing are slim as her qualifying time of 4:41:36 sits significantly slower than the standard for the Olympic Games of 4:09.
But being an Olympic athlete competing against the men will be the furthest thing from Taylor-Talcott’s mind during the race. Her thoughts will be about the progress she has made.
“Look at what a girl can do,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not the first person to have gotten the standard. But I know I am the first woman to fight for it.”
Her reasoning behind her efforts are simple - many of the female race walkers prefer a longer distance than the 20 km event, the only race walk event offered for the women in the Olympics. It’s a group that obviously includes Taylor-Talcott as she won the past two U.S. 50 km Championships for the women. She was also the recent overall winner of the USA 40 km Championships and finishing ahead of the men’s winner, her husband.
As the other women in similar positions have experienced, Taylor-Talcott has been met with a large amount of feedback, both positive and negative. She prefers to concentrate on the former.
“The people who have been supportive have been fantastic,” she said. “I chose to focus on the positive feedback. But once the gun goes off I will have all positive energy.”
Likely much of the positive energy has been coming from her home from her husband. At 51 years of age, Talcott will be making his first appearance in the Olympic Trials. His qualifying time of 4:42:19 sits just under one minute slower than Taylor-Talcott’s. It adds a bit of a Battle of the Sexes element within the same household.
“I can help him and he can help me,” Taylor-Talcott said. “It is so unbelievable to be married to your best friend and training partner. We try to do a lot of the training in the winter together but with his work schedule it gets tough.
“I was there when he qualified and it was tough. I think it was tougher to be the wife on the sidelines.”
The story for Taylor-Talcott is like few her sport has seen. The 50 km Race Walk Trials will represent an important point, but a point she hopes is only the beginning.
USA Track & Field