It was a big day of Athletics, with not only the Oceania Race Walking Championships taking place, but also an Oceania Record being broken in Melbourne.

The Oceania Championships 20km Racewalking Championships took place, once again in Adelaide, South Australia.

Dane Bird-Smith went into the race as a strong favourite, despite a hot field of international athletes. As last years winner, plus strong a performance at the World Championships in London. However it was not to be for Dane, who ended up finishing 5th in the race.

Despite being the favourite, getting to the start line was an achievement for Bird-Smith, after contracting a cold and fever, travelling to the race.

“Today was definitely not great,” the Rio Olympic bronze medalist explained. “I got off the plane on Friday crook as. I’ve just been trying to break the fever overnight. It’s one of those things where if you don’t race, you’re possibly out of contention for a Commonwealth Games so you’ve just got to push through with whatever you’ve got. Today I had nothing there but just enough to scrape over as first Aussie, but it was a pretty shocking race.

“Looking back on it, it’s one of those things I’ll laugh about later but everything hurts,” he continued. “I’ve just pushed through the worst flu and pain barrier, so I’ve got to be happy with that in the least.”

Early leader, Canada’s Evan Dunfee was forced to withdraw from the race due to hamstring issues. Karlstrom made his move at the halfway mark, with Liukas and Bird-Smith and Quentin Rew following closely behind. The gap to Bird-Smith had opened to 30seconds by the 14km mark, with Karlstrom, Liukas and Rew solidifying their lead over the final kilometres.

The Women’s race saw Australian Beki Smith after a blistering final circuit to move clear of her on rivals Jemima Montag (AUS) and Claire Tallent (AUS) in the final kilometres to cross the finish line in 1:31:26, a good four-and-a-half minutes clear of the Commonwealth Games qualifying mark. The win also gives Smith the Oceania title.

The three started to break clear of the pack at the halfway mark and with eight kilometres remaining, Tallent trailed by a few seconds. Smith switched on the afterburners on the final loop of the Memorial Avenue course to drop Montag with the 19-year-old coming in as runner-up, three seconds in arrears is set to make her Commonwealth Games debut in her first season in the open ranks.

“It’s such a relief,” said Smith, clearly pleased with the result. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. I’m a bit emotional. It’s really something that I’ve wanted for a long time so it’s super exciting.

“It’s not just me who puts in the effort, it’s my hubby at home – a man who has sacrificed so much so I could do this, so to win today and confirm my spot on the Commonwealth Games team is payback for them.”

Later in the day, Australian Kathryn Mitchell, broke the area record in the Women’s Javelin.

After throwing a personal best, and just missing the record a couple of weeks ago, this shows the good form she is in.

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