Dane, you just finished 8th in the World Championships. What did this amazing performance mean to you?
Finishing 8th in Beijing was an awesome way to top off a great year. I started the season slowly with illness forcing me to withdraw from the national titles, but throughout the year I managed to piece together a PB, a World University Gold, and an 8th at the World T&F Champs along with a sneaky proposal to the love of my life making 2015 one of my biggest years so far.
How much did the fall at the 12km mark effect the rest of the race?
This was a turning point in the race. The lead pack was around 14 strong and we were coming around the 180′ bend 3 men wide. I got caught on the inside rail which usually is not a problem for me being one of the taller walkers around but with an unexpected move from the Japanese racer cutting in, a few athletes were caught off guard myself included and forced to deal with the pot plants on the inside of the turn. Our pack was immediately separated and this is where the leaders pushed away and our group became a chase that never quite caught back up. That’s racing and it could have well been me taking advantage in the lead pack, but next time I’ll be smarter and stronger, it won’t be a problem.
How did you get into race walking as a young kid?
I started race walking in high school when my school district was looking for extra points for the championship and I just happened to have some time free between my running events. The school teacher and a few mates managed to persuade me into attempting the 3km walk based on the fact that my Father, Dave Smith, was a dual Olympian in the 20km walk so it must be in the blood. Turns out I had soaked up the technique from years of watching Dad and his squad, the rest is history.
Who are some of the biggest influences in your career?
I’ve spent most of my life on the track surrounded by athletes of all calibre who I admire, but my first memories were of my Dad pushing me in a pram while he was training. But in terms of my career, I always admired the 400m runners. Cathy freeman in Sydney was my most memorable childhood athletics experience. Later as I discovered walking, athletes like Nathan Deakes and Luke Adams have always shown me respect and interest in my development. Luke has even become a mentor for me helping me push forward through good and bad races.
How important to you and your career was recently winning The World Uni Games?
The World Uni Games Gold is beyond awesome! To me it was less about winning and more about how I controlled this race, I set myself a goal to shutdown the attacks from the other athletes and force a pace that would favour me to come home strong. I was backing myself for a big finish and it couldn’t have gone smoother. This is the experience I need to medal or win future international championships.
Is Rio the major focus now?
RIO 16 has been the focus this whole year, we are slowly building up and up. This year was supposed to be like a dress rehearsal with training blocks and international competitions in similar timings to what we will have next year. Although this year has been successful I am extremely pleased to say there are a lot of kinks to iron out and plenty of improvements to be made based on preparation and tactics alone, on top of that I will be training harder than I ever have before.
Can you talk us through a typical training week for you?
My coach and I work on a training theory of quality over quantity, unlike most race walkers who may train up to 30 or 40km in one training session, I prefer to break my sessions into 10-15km morning and afternoon working on intensity throughout. With this method I accumulate around 120km per week plus 2 gym sessions and a boxing session. Our squads greatest weapon has always been our core strength programs and our secret Sunday hills, keeping us strong and injury free since 2008.
What’s the weirdest or funniest thing that has ever happened to you during a long endurance session, if anything?
I get a lot of guys trying to run along beside me during long sessions, but the funniest was when a bloke leaving work on his bike decided to become my Rocky coach, yelling out quotes and encouragement. He was sledging runners that I would overtake and had people ahead thinking I was in an actual race and telling them to cheer for me. It was a hilarious distraction and great encouragement.
What are your current career highs and lows?
So far the career high has been my World University Games Gold. I had a great time with the team, my fiancée flew over to watch my race, and I executed the perfect race on the day when it counted. My career low would have to be the day I left my 400m career behind me, after tearing a hamstring at the world mountain running champs in Albania 2011 and with the 2012 London Olympics approaching I figured it was time to make my choice.
What are you favourite pre and post race meals?
Pre race is always a challenge for me, I race quite regularly in Asia which usually provides a lovely white rice only diet for a few days, not bad for a carbo load. But morning of the race I try to get down some honey on toast, muesli and a banana which can sometimes be difficult to find. Post race I always get the munchies for donuts, the things I would do to get my hands on a dozen donuts and a milkshake! But always try and follow up with something meaty and protein packed within 12 hours.
If you could go pro in any other sport, what would it be?
I would love to get in the motoGP. I reckon racing superbikes around the track would be insane fun, but as I’ve never had great luck on the bike I’ll stick to a sport with my two feet safely on the ground. Maybe beach volleyball would be nice.
If you could offer a key tip to young up and coming athletes, what would it be?
In racing my number 1 is ‘never back down from a challenge’, I always believed every time you race somebody better than you there is an opportunity to become better. Second would be ‘Get Strong’, mentally and physically there are plenty of peaks and valleys on the long road to greatness be prepared in your mind and in your body to go the distance. And third rule would be ‘you are not alone’ get your team behind you and never shy from asking for help or giving help to others who may need it.