It was at the IAAF World Championships two years ago that Dane Bird-Smith (Qld) made a name for himself as one of Australia’s most impressive young talents and he intends to improve on that legacy with new success in Beijing (CHN) next month.
Confirmed as a starter in the men’s 20km walk, the 22-year-old is determined to place ahead of the 11th spot he secured in Moscow (RUS) and with a new personal best of 1:20:05 from La Coruna (ESP) already on his 2015 resume he is arguably on track to do so.
Bird-Smith will prepare for his world title race through competition alongside the Australian Uniroos at the World University Games. One of 34 athletes to compete in athletics, he has aspirations for a medal or personal best in the host city of Gwangju (KOR).
“Gwangju is a great lead up to Beijing, giving me six weeks after racing there to refocus on the big championship of the year. I want to make a splash at the Universiade, walking away with a new personal best or a medal,” Bird-Smith said.
“This year has so far been a bit of a rollercoaster. I got some insane training done in December and January and was feeling right on the money for the national championship but I fell ill with the flu and it took me a good six weeks to get back to the training I wanted. I made a call to not travel to Europe, and pushed back my opening race to Taicang, but have since regained momentum with great training and a new personal best.
“Moscow was my debut and a huge accomplishment to finish 11th. Less than a year later I’d improved my PB by nearly two minutes and in this season I have found a new pace that should mean I don’t back down when the other boys bring the speed. Beijing is going to be tough for the whole field, hot, humid and smoggy. Athletes will be cautious across the board, but my aim is to take a few scalps that I haven’t before, clock something quicker than 80 minutes or die trying.”
For Bird-Smith, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are his ultimate goal, with all events in the lead up forming a preparation for taking on the best the world has to offer on the grandest stage of all.
“Rio 2016 is my ultimate, I am where I need to be to make the team but that’s not enough. I want to remember my first Olympics as one of the best races of my life. Over the upcoming Australian summer I will be putting in a huge amount of work, then honing it all down with a plan to peak when I need to. My coach and Dad, Dave, and my Mum, Denice, have been so supportive and I want to do them proud.”
The IAAF World Championships bound Rachel Tallent (Vic), Nicholas Hough (NSW) and Michelle Jenneke (NSW) will join Bird-Smith at the World University Games, with the team also featuring Alex Beck (Qld), Stewart McSweyn (Tas) and Ashleigh Whittaker (Vic).
The Opening Ceremony will be held on Friday 3 July, with athletics competition to commence on 8 July.