Rising star of race walking Dane Bird-Smith (Qld) has fought it out for an impressive eighth place in the men’s 20km walk on Day 2 of the IAAF World Championships in Beijing (CHN).
A contender for much of the race, Bird-Smith, who recently won gold at the World University Games, sat comfortably in the lead pack of more than ten runners until well into the middle stages of the long distance event.
Bird-Smith then tumbled over at the 12-kilometre mark after being infringed by a fellow competitor, before recovering to cement his place in the top-ten as Zhen Wang (CHN, silver,1:19:29) made a break with just over four kilometres go.
Wang was overtaken by the European champion Miguel Lopez (ESP, 1:19:14), the eventual gold medallist, as Bird-Smith also moved up the ranks to finish strongly in a race that he described as challenging. His time was 1:21:37.
“I’m happy to have fought it out to the end. I came home with the big man Ding Chen in the last 300 (metres), it was a ripper finish. That was not fun. It was a tough one,” Bird-Smith said.
“The pace was on. I was OK with it initially, but I came around one of the turns and I went over the flower beds with two other walkers. That was a real bungle. But I fought through it. I’ve come eighth though, I’m definitely not unhappy.”
Bird-Smith made his debut for the Australian Flame at the IAAF World Championships in 2013, with his result of 11th one of the performances of the meet. He has since won the national title for the 20km walk in 2014 and been crowned the world university champion after a stunning effort at in Gwangju (KOR) earlier this year.
Bird-Smith was joined on the start line today by three-time Olympic medallist Jared Tallent (Vic) and Chris Erickson (Vic).
The 27th athlete to cross the line in 1:24:05, Tallent highlighted his ability to keep the pace in his preferred 50km event, to be held on Saturday 29 August. Erickson, who will also start in the men’s 50km walk, clocked 1:25:15 for 33rd.
Eight-time national champion Lauren Wells (ACT) added to Australian Flame success this morning, albeit after being dramatically disqualified from her heat of the women’s 400m hurdles.
Second past the post in a season best time of 55.65, Wells was stunned to see that she had been expelled from the race after her trail leg was sighted by a referee illegally clearing the hurdle (Rule 168.7 (a)).
Athletics Australia Head Coach, Craig Hilliard, and Australian Flame Head of Delegation, Simon Nathan, requested an immediate review of the decision, with video evidence highlighting that the wrong call had been made. Wells was then reinstated for the semi-finaltomorrow.
“It was a solid run. To finish second in my heat is great, it secured me an automatic spot for the semi. There is more to do for the next round, but today was about keeping it safe and executing something that would give me this decent a time. I’m happy,” Wells said.
“Then I walked off the track and saw the DQ. I got through to post event as quickly as I could. I wanted to get an appeal happening because I knew I had done nothing wrong in my race. Craig and Simon were able to make my case and it’s good to know that it’s been sorted. It was stressful though, because no one knew why I was out. It was a pretty tense time while trying to work how to fix it.
Melissa Breen (ACT), the training partner of Wells, started in the heat of the women’s 100m to close out green and gold action this morning. Crossing the line in 11.61 (w: -1/3), she placed 6th and will not advance to the next round.
Competition continues at the IAAF World Championships tonight, with gutsy middle distance charge Jeff Riseley (Vic) to set acute plantar facia soreness aside and start in the semi-final of the men’s 800m. The final of the men’s 100m also features on the evening program.