The Gold Coast 2018 gold medallist takes flight on the next stage of his life.
Renowned race walker Dane Bird-Smith has clocked over 100,000km in training, with every step taken just as important as the next in reaching his goals.
He now takes a step in a new direction, with the Gold Coast gold medallist and Olympic bronze medallist officially announcing his retirement from international competition.
Bird-Smith ends a 15-year representative career having won Rio 2016 Olympic bronze, as well as Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games gold, World Universiade gold and 11 Australian national championships.
The 29-year-old will also retire as a three-time Australian record holder, as well as the current Commonwealth Games record holder in the 20km race walk.
“The Olympic dream I had as a kid took me on an amazing worldwide journey. I wanted to be the best and my competitive nature served me so well, session after session, year after year. I worked harder and harder with no fear of failure and with dreams of medals,” Bird-Smith said.
“As 2022 rolled in with a multitude of challenges, I decided I would take a break from competition but continue to train for enjoyment until I had the chance to return. Unfortunately, that competitive spirit has been a tough adversary as I found it incredibly hard to not work until exhaustion or to simply forgo a session with a number of other things going on in my life.”
Bird-Smith last competed on the world stage in 2019 at the World Athletics Championships, and although he was selected to compete at his second Olympic Games, he withdrew from the Tokyo team, due to family reasons.
“I was fully committed to the Tokyo Games, even with the entire athletics calendar falling to Covid, 2021 was the goal. However, life for my family took an amazing turn with the birth of our beautiful daughter Astrid and all the fantastic new challenges of being a Dad,” he said.
“I had hoped I could ride out a period of time just training at home but instead I’ve made the return to work out of necessity and I look forward to my new career path.”
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Bird-Smith credits his involvement for athletics in shaping his values and his work ethic.
“When I was a kid, I never saw the opportunity to start my Olympic dream, I was just trying my best at every race and training session, doing something I loved. It was all the little steps that made my journey. Every big moment or win was the culmination of a series of little steps that were a ton of hard work that nobody else saw,” he said.
“Even after narrowly missing a spot on the London 2012 team I set a goal to be the fastest Australian at an Olympics ever. For nearly four years, I wrote 1.19.35, a time that was three minutes faster than my personal best, just about everywhere and anywhere. Each and every day, I pushed myself to exhaustion pursuing that dream and the rest is history.”
While he admits he didn’t get the fairy-tail send-off he had hoped for, Bird-Smith is proud of all the decisions he has made along the way and credits his team for buoying him up through the journey.
“It’s weird looking back at what I’ve achieved. I’m so humbled and so proud of these highlights that history will remember, but it’s only part of the story that I will cherish as I move to the next challenge in my life,” he said.
“I want to thank my fantastic team; firstly my Dad (David Smith) who is my coach, a dual Olympian himself. He was there for just about every session. He was the wisdom and encouragement that made me never doubt that I was capable of becoming a champion.
“Also, my physio, James Thompson, the team at the QAS, my wife, my family and my mates. To my athletics family, both in Australia and worldwide. We are nuts to have chosen such a tough sport that forces us to bare our truest strengths and self to the world, but I have relished every moment of fear, excitement, pain and glory. It is a dream come true to be an Olympian. I am so honoured to have shared a uniform, a start line and a dream with you all.”
Athletics Australia General Manager, High Performance Andrew Faichney congratulated Bird-Smith on his career.
“On behalf of Athletics Australia, I’d like to congratulate Dane on is achievements and thank him for his contribution to race walking and the sport as a whole,” Faichney said.
“Dane is an incredible athlete, with a great appetite to be the best he can possibly be on the world stage. His grit and determination saw him achieve Olympic bronze and Commonwealth Games gold and saw him etch his name into the Australian history books countless times. We wish Dane all the very best for this next chapter.”
Bird-Smith will now focus his attention on finishing his education degree as well as his work as a Sport Coordinator and coach at various primary schools.
Dane Bird-Smith – A Career Snapshot:
- Olympic bronze medallist (Rio 2016, 20km race walk)
- Commonwealth Games gold medallist and record holder (Gold Coast 2018)
- World Universiade Champion (Gwangju 2015)
- 11 x Australian 20km race walk champion
- 3 x Australian record holder
With thanks Athletics Australia.