Deakes walks out an icon
1 March 2013
ATHLETICS: Australian race walking icon Nathan Deakes (Vic) has today announced his immediate retirement from athletics.
One of the most lauded athletes in Australian athletics history, Deakes’s illustrious 17-year career began with a bronze medal at the 1996 IAAF World Junior Championships in Sydney (NSW).
A bronze medal in the men’s 20km walk at the 1998 Commonwealth Games followed, before a further four Commonwealth titles in the men’s 20km and 50km walks in 2002 (Manchester, GBR) and 2006 (Melbourne, Vic).
Deakes also won a bronze medal in the men’s 20km walk at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games but his biggest and most memorable successes are his men’s 50km walk world record (3:35:47) in December 2006 and a world title one year later at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka (JPN).
He concluded his international career at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
"London was always slated as my final race. Finishing on my own terms was extremely important to me because I withdrew from Beijing with injury. The last four and a half years have been incredibly difficult with constant injury and not being able to complete the training loads that I once could. But it was all put into perspective with the birth of my first child, Mia, just six weeks after London,” Deakes said.
“The biggest highlight for me was winning the World Championships in Osaka. That was a strange year because I’d spent so much time on the sidelines early in the year, before I based myself in Northern Tuscany and achieved some great continuity in training when it mattered most, so to win was really special.
“The world title came the year after I set the world record at home in Geelong in December 2006. We race in some pretty obscure places as walkers, but to be able to race well in front of family and friends in my home town was great. The world record was the icing on the cake after what was already a super experience.”
Deakes will retire as the fastest combined 20km and 50km walker in history according to the IAAF scoring tables, with his personal bests of 1:17.33 and 3:35:47 combining for 2545 points. He is the second fastest 50km walker in history and fifth fastest in the 20km event.
A nine-time national champion and the 2006 Male Athlete of the Year, Deakes is proud of the strong contingent of walkers continually producing for Australian teams.
“I first started suffering from injuries in early 2008 and after Jana Pittman and I both withdrew with injury as the two current world champions there was talk then about who could win the medals at the Olympic Games. Jared (Tallent) certainly stepped up then and it was amazing to see him win two medals in Beijing. I don’t think anyone predicted that such a great result would happen for Australia,” Deakes said.
“Even today the depth in the men’s continues with some great results of late, including even last weekend at the 20km Selection Trial for World Championships. Dane Bird-Smith is an athlete to keep an eye on. In the next couple of years I am confident he will be one of Australia’s best athletes full stop. I’ve always said that I wanted to leave with the event in a healthy position and I believe I am.
In his retirement, Deakes will continue his love for all things athletics and is keen to be involved in any way he can. He is also grateful for the many people and organisations that have supported him across the journey, thanking them for how they have shaped him as both an athlete and a person.
“I have taken away so much from the sport that in my opinion it would be selfish not to give back to it. I am obviously still really passionate about athletics, and my event group, and I am honestly open to whatever comes my way,” Deakes continued.
“If I’m going to be honest coaching was never really something that appealed to me, but now looking into retirement it is something that I might be keen to explore. I had to knock back an international coaching position a couple of years back because I was still competing myself and I think that if I had the chance now to do something like that I would be very keen to have a crack.
“The obvious people to thank are my family, my parents have been brilliant to me and my wife Antoinette has been a rock for the 15 years that we have been together.
“I was very lucky to enjoy the benefits on offer at the Australian Institute of Sport. I don’t think I would have been around as long as I have been without the unprecedented support I received from Tudor Bidder, Andrea Mosler and Craig Purdam. I’ve also had two big influences from a coaching perspective in Ron Weigel and Craig Hilliard and they’ve been instrumental in shaping me as an athlete as well as a person.”
Athletics Australia President Rob Fildes OAM congratulates Deakes on what has been an outstanding career.
“Nathan has been a fixture of Australian athletics for so many years, and his success is something that we at Athletics Australia are very proud to have shared with him,” Fildes said.
“We thank Nathan for his outstanding contribution to our sport and on his wonderful success both here in Australia and at major international championships across the world. It’s great to hear that he wants to remain involved in athletics in the years to come and we can’t wait to share the next chapter of his athletics life with him.”