MEDAL HOPES: Dane Bird-Smith celebrates a win in China last year.
MEDAL HOPES: Dane Bird-Smith celebrates a win in China last year. YONHAP

Jared not the only one with Tallent

ATHLETICS: It should come as no surprise that it is a male walker who is best placed to get Australia off to a flying start in the track and field competition at the Rio Olympics.

The shock is that it's not Jared Tallent.

The 35-year-old Tallent has been personally responsible for three of the seven athletics medals won by Australia at the previous two Games.

But Tallent has withdrawn from the 20km event tomorrow morning (AEST) because of a sore hamstring, preferring to target his specialist 50km event later in the Games where he is the defending champion.

In his absence, the focus shifts to Brisbane rising star Dane Bird-Smith.

"On a blue-sky day I want a medal,” said the 24-year-old son of dual Olympic walker David Smith. "I can't lie, I really want a medal bad.

"I'm hungry for it but I'm not going to sit around and pump myself up and say it's an easy job done.

"Putting it all together is the toughest part of the job.”

Bird-Smith, who lists Rainbow Beach as one of his training bases, proved his pedigree by defying a virus to finish fourth at the World Race Walking Cup in Rome in June.

The chest infection limited his training for a couple of weeks, but the Australian insists he has arrived in Rio in career-best form.

The walks are among the events most affected by the banning of the Russian athletics team over systemic doping, further opening up the chase for podium places in the men's 20km.

"You clear it out of your mind after they made the final decision that Russia's done and dusted,” Bird-Smith said.

"It's a really good thing that the IAAF have stood by their decision and for all the clean athletes out there.”

Tallent doesn't hit the roads of Rio until the 50km walk next Friday.

If he finishes on the podium he will become the first Australian male track and field athlete to medal at three separate Olympics.

AAP


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