Dane strides to bronze medal
13 August 2016
ATHLETICS: Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith has produced a gutsy effort to win the bronze medal in the men’s 20km walk at the Rio Olympics.
The 24-year-old Queenslander finished third behind China’s Zhen Wang, himself a bronze medallist at the London 2012 Olympics, and compatriot Zelin Cai.
Wang won in a time of one minute 19.14 seconds, 12 seconds ahead of Cai, with Bird-Smith a further 13 seconds behind in third.
The Australian’s father and coach, dual Olympian David Smith, was on hand at the drinks station to cheer his son home.
Bird-Smith’s time of 1:19.37 shaved a second off his personal best.
After suffering stomach bugs and other illnesses during races over the past year, Bird-Smith said: “This means so much to finally have a race where I went well.
“And I’ve just looked at my watch and I’ve done a bloody PB as well. I just can’t believe it. I’m stoked. I just want to find my family.”
He said his brother, fiancé and parents had provided great support.
“They got me through; they absolutely did.”
He said he was handed a drink by his father 900 metres from the finish. “He was going absolutely bananas. It means so much to perform in front of dad.”
Bird-Smith said he kept a close watch on the Chinese walkers.
“I knew they were going to go hard, I just didn’t know when. As soon as they went, I made sure I was on their tail and just went for it.”
Bird-Smith's bronze medal continues a superb run for Australian walkers, who have collected medals at the past five Olympics.
He was always a medal chance after working his way towards the leading bunch in the first two kilometres.
He was third at the halfway point behind early pace-setter Tom Bosworth of Britain, and stayed in touch with the leading pack of 10 walkers as the two Chinese made their way to the front around the 15km mark.
When Wang upped the pace three kilometres from home, he strung the field out but Bird-Smith was one of the few walkers able to maintain contact.
He held his position strongly in the sunny conditions to claim the bronze.
Australia’s second competitor, Rhydian Cowley, finished 33rd in a time of 1:23.30.