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Birdman set to soar again at world titles

FLYING HIGH: Rio Olympics medallist Dane Bird-Smith is confident of strong finish in the 20km walk at the world championships in London.
FLYING HIGH: Rio Olympics medallist Dane Bird-Smith is confident of strong finish in the 20km walk at the world championships in London. Harry Trump

ATHLETICS: Since winning an Olympic bronze medal in Rio, the biggest difference Dane Bird-Smith has noticed is in the looks.

Every day as he's trained along the Brisbane River, one of the world's best walkers has found he was no longer being viewed as an alien from a different planet, with some people even knowing his name.

"It has been really cool. I've seen such a massive change in perspective on race walking," Bird-Smith said. "Before Rio, I'd be out training in Brisbane and people would honestly look at me quizzically going 'what even is that?'.

"But now I go out Coronation Drive along Brisbane River and people literally call out like 'go Birdman' and 'let's go Dane' and they know and that's unbelievable. That for me is the biggest thing."

With Jared Tallent forced out of the 50km event because of injury, Australia's medal chances rest with Bird-Smith in the 20km event.

At the past two world championships he's finished 11th and eighth respectively but on the back of a race trial at Australia's training camp in the lead-up to London the 25-year-old is confident another medal is there for the taking.

"I haven't raced since February where I did an equal 20km PB to Rio," he said.

"My training since then, I have been doing university at the same time so I haven't come overseas much but I have been ticking off my training and going really, really well.

"I've been at a higher standard than last year.

"(At Tonbridge camp) I decided to do a little time trial. The wind kicked up, the rain kicked up and I still put a five-second PB down and broke the Australian record by another five seconds, so I am in shape.

"The 5k time was 18minutes 33 seconds and that's world leading by about 25 seconds over 5k. I know I am strong and I have got the speed at the end.

"I am chasing medals, I am here for the business end.

"I think I have a good idea of the top four guys I will be up against and I am very very confident in the last 5km after what I have just done that I can turn it on."

20km walk final, Monday, 1.20am (AEST)

Topics:  world athletics championships

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