Dane Bird-Smith in the 20km race walk at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships (© Getty Images)
A strong Australian team will line up for the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships Taicang 2018 on 5-6 May.
Olympic bronze medallist Dane Bird-Smith leads the men’s team. He will contest the 20km alongside fellow Olympians Rhydian Cowley and Brendon Reading, while Michael Hosking and rising talent Adam Garganis will be making their senior international debut.
National champion Beki Smith, Rachel Tallent and Jemima Montag form the team for the women’s 20km, while Claire Tallent will compete in the 50km, her first attempt at the distance.
Australia earned three medals at the 2016 World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome: gold in the men’s 50km race walk for Jared Tallent, team silver in the women’s 20km and team bronze in the U20 women’s 10km. The Australian athletes heading to China will be looking to emulate that feat.
Bird-Smith, Garganis and Smith all came away with then career-best performances in Rome. Bird-Smith, who finished fourth over 20km in 2016 in 1:19:38, went on to take bronze at the Rio Olympics. He is hopeful that this year’s event will set him up nicely for the Commonwealth Games.
“This is a huge event for the race walkers; it rivals the World Championships and actually boasts a way bigger field with five competitors per country,” said Bird-Smith. “The Commonwealth Games is a huge priority this year but backing up to take on the world threats over in China is a seriously awesome challenge.
“Over the years I have developed a rivalry and a reputation among the consistently impressive Chinese athletes and I am so keen to get among it and see what they are bringing this year to their home championship.”
Bird-Smith battled illness at the recent Australian 20km Race Walking Championships, but still came away with the gold medal. While below his best then, he is expecting to be back at full strength in China.
“After a pretty poor start to the season due to illness, I’m certainly out for a bit of redemption, not that I need more motivation – I’m already pumped for this season. Everyone internationally knows how strong I will be when I’m healthy and they shouldn't underestimate me based on recent results.”
Australian team for Taicang
20km: Dane Bird-Smith, Rhydian Cowley, Adam Garganis, Michael Hosking, Brendon Reading
U20 10km: Mitchell Baker, Kyle Swan, Declan Tingay
20km: Jemima Montag, Beki Smith, Rachel Tallent
50km: Claire Tallent
U20 10km: Katie Hayward, Rebecca Henderson, Phillipa Huse