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Australian race walkers, Dane Bird-Smith and Jemima Montag have launched Australia’s track and field campaign in the best possible way with dual gold medals in the 20km walk events on the road at the of Currumbin Beachfront.
By David Tarbotton
The achievements by the pair, shattered many records, but not least that Montag, 20, has become the youngest winner of the men’s or women’s walk in Commonwealth Games history. The double was the first for Australia at the Games since 2006.
Enjoying the cooler conditions of the earlier start, Bird-Smith, the Olympic bronze medallist, won a very tight battle with England’s Tom Bosworth and Kenyan Samuel Ireri Gathimba.
Bird-Smith clocked 1:19.34, just four seconds ahead of Bosworth, with Gathimba just 13 seconds further back. Bird-Smith’s time was his second quickest ever and broke the Games record of 1:19.55 set by Nathan Deakes in 2006.
“I could not be happier,” said Bird-Smith. “The course is tough but the home crowd made it worthwhile. The last 500m hurt so much but I had everyone behind me which made it so special.
“It was unbelievable, an unreal feeling. I am over the moon and I cannot thank (the crowd) enough. As I came around the bend they went absolutely ballistic.”
In a high quality men’s race, Victorian’s Michael Hosking (1:25.35) and Rhydian Cowley (1:26.12) placed 10th and 11th respectively.
Enduring the warmer conditions of the later women’s start, Jemima Montag was also impressive, missing the Games record by just four seconds, stopping the clock at 1:32:50.
“It was just amazing, it’s only my third time racing this distance so to come away with a win is amazing. The race, being in Australia with my friends and family on the sidelines, it didn’t even feel like I was racing. I was being pushed along by their support,” said Montag.
However, there was heartbreak during the race for Claire Tallent. While in the lead and within touching distance of gold shortly before she reached the 18km mark, she was disqualified from the event.
Team mate, Montag felt for Tallent’s disappointment.
“It’s not the way that I would have liked to win gold but when things like that happen, you have to stay in the moment and not lose focus. Claire is a beautiful girl and she’s done it before, she’ll come back stronger.”
Olympian Beki Smith, consider a strong medal hope, placed sixth in 1:40.41.