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Walkers save the day for Australia

AAP logoAAP 21/08/2016 By John Salvado

Thank goodness - or Christ the Redeemer or whoever - for the walkers.

For the first time since the 1976 Games in Montreal, the Australian athletics team will depart an Olympics without winning a single medal in the main stadium.

But that record was partially offset on the scenic walks course down at the beachside suburb of Pontal.

Jared Tallent became Australia's most prolific Olympic men's track and field medallist with silver in the 50km and 24-year-old Dane Bird-Smith delivered on his prodigious promise with bronze in the men's 20km.

Having been denied his deserved moment in the sun by Russian drug cheat Sergey Kirdyapkin four years ago in London, Tallent would dearly love to have won a second gold medal the traditional way.

But if he had to settle for silver, he was much happier doing so in a clean race, sans Russians.

"It's very different to London," said Tallent.

"There are no suspicions this time around."

The lack of other medals was a concern - albeit with 2012 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson recovering at home from a hamstring injury.

But the significant silver lining was that many of the best performers in Rio were youngsters such as Bird-Smith, sprinter Ella Nelson, long jumper Brooke Stratton, marathoner Milly Clark and teenaged pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall.

Nine Australians finished in the top eight in Rio - up from six top-eights in London four years ago - and a further four were ninth.

"Importantly it is the younger kids who really stood up here," said head coach Craig Hilliard.

"In terms of scope for the future that is the encouraging sign for me.

"I could not have asked for more from those athletes.

"... Looking forward to (the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo) that's an encouraging place to be."

Alana Boyd came within one centimetre of her PB in the pole vault final, only to be denied a bronze on countback by New Zealand teenager Eliza McCartney.

Old hands Dani Samuels and Kathryn Mitchell both went within a measly 44cm of a medal in the women's discus and javelin respectively.

Genevieve LaCaze and Madeline Heiner-Hills ticked plenty of boxes by contesting the 3000m steeplechase and 5000m finals.

But there was also a slew of contenders who performed well below expectations.

Fabrice Lapierre was upset to have blown his chance to win long jump gold.

But in reality the 2015 world championships silver medallist just had to find a way to get past the halfway cut in the final before worrying about the podium.

Commonwealth champion Eleanor Patterson crashed out of high jump qualifying with three extremely unconvincing efforts at 1.92m.

Benn Harradine, 34, has been an ever-present member of Australian teams in the past decade. He was 20th overall in discus qualifying.

Melissa Breen could manage no better than 11.74 in her 100m heat - nearly three-quarters of a second shy of her PB set two years ago.

And the hype surrounding Michelle Jenneke was in direct contrast to her performance where it really mattered.

A time of 13.26 in her 100m hurdles heat was almost half a second outside the PB she set last year.

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