In 2016, race walking ace Dane Bird-Smith came back from Rio with an Olympic bronze medal around his neck. The Aussie talks competition mindset and more.

Championship tip

Trust your work and everything that you have been doing during your preparation. Many athletes have the best coaches, but often worry about the small things on the big day and lose faith in the preparation they have done.

For me, it is always important to believe in your preparation and, if you do, it will enable you to produce your best on the day.

Tactical tip

My number one racing tactic is something I also adopted back when I was running 400m and 800m races. If you are racing in a championship or final, remember the biggest thing is to hang on for as long as possible to give yourself the best chance. There is always another day to go for a world record.

I took this attitude with me in junior competition because I always knew I could outsprint the opposition in the last 3km. For me, this is huge tactics. I know my technique is solid and if I am in contention, I have a good amount of speed at the end. 

Psychological tip

It is always to be flexible, because most races don’t go the way that you want. Flexibility of the mind is not something you can learn easily.

For example, you might turn up to a competition, which is way hotter than expected and you might not have an ice pack. So, it is important to adapt to these changing circumstances. I would find some shade, get a wet cloth and I’ll alter my warm-up drills and length.

Some athletes don’t have an ability to change their set routine. As a race walker travelling around the world on a shoestring budget, I’ve learned to make the best of any situation. 

Technical tip

You can always change the mechanics of your technique and I learn a lot from watching others. I also feel I learned a lot about technique growing up and watching my father, David, coach others.

I was often at many of the training sessions – even though I was a competitive runner at the time – and my dad would come up to me and ask me what I thought of his or her race walking technique. Looking back, I think he was almost training me to understand race walking technique and the mechanics behind it. 

Dane Bird-Smith on the podium in Rio (Getty Images / AFP)

Coaching tip

The biggest coaching tip I have taken on board is the importance of recovery. It is often what separates the top athletes. We all know the importance of mileage, but in more recent times and through science we have learned the importance of quality training sessions. And to make the most of these training sessions the recovery time is vital.

Top tip for surviving the athletics circuit

Don’t waste money on a flash room. When I base myself at a good quality training base like Font Romeu or Sierra Nevada, I’m quite happy to live in a tiny spartan room. I prefer to sink all my money into food, nutrition and recovery. As long as I have a roof over my head and shoes on my feet – that’s all I need.

Cooking tip

It would be to eat fish. Fish is a top-notch food for an athlete. It has all the important amino acids, oils and protein. I love a good crispy salmon with little sprinkles of oregano and lemon zest.

Fashion tip 

Coming from Down Under I’ve seen a lot of guys from overseas wearing flip-flops or sandals with socks. This is an absolute one no-no in Australia.

Vacation tip

I’ve enjoyed the best holidays and seen the most amazing sights around the world but for me it is who you go with and who you share it that counts. That’s what makes those special moments that bit better. 

Driving tip

My top driving tip would get yourself a hands-free. Nobody should be touching a phone when they are driving.

Social media tip

I’m a little bit relaxed on social media and I’ve let a few things slip which my mates would find hilarious, but maybe officials of sponsors might not! I would never cross the line and offend, but I think it is important to be able to express yourself and have fun.

Dating tip

I’ve been seeing my fiancée for the last six years and when we first met she hit me with a great one-liner. So, I would say have your one-liners ready to go.