Sport: DAVID SMITH, Olympic gold medallist
After a disappointing performance at the Beijing Olympics, the Warilla kayaker proved critics wrong with a gold medal in London this year.
He is the first Olympic gold medallist from the Illawarra since Beverley Whitfield won gold for the 200m breaststroke in the 1972 Munich Games.
Smith won gold in the K4 1000m with team-mates Murray Stewart, Tate Smith, and Jacob Clear.
They won by half a boat length to claim gold, the nation’s sixth for the Games, ahead of Hungary and Czech Republic.
In 2008, Smith was left a blubbering mess after the crew, hot favourites to win, failed to make the final. He was a picture of devastation.
But the smile on his face 150 metres from the finish line at Eton Dorney told the story. Smith looked across at his rivals, knowing none of them was surging enough to threaten in the closing stages, and the grin emerged.
They had to overcome the tension of a false start before steeling themselves to make a bold opening to the race, and were never headed.
Gold was theirs.
‘‘A few years and memories have been erased,’’ Smith said.
‘‘It was never really in the back of my mind worrying about it. It’s good to prove to the world we are the best in the world and Beijing was just a once-off. I’m a better paddler than I was there.’’
Smith was part of an Illawarra contingent that was larger than that of several nations competing, including Chad, Botswana, Somalia and East Timor.
They included swimmer David McKeon, volleyball player Aidan Zingel, water polo player Alicia McCormack, Hockeyroo Casey Eastham and runner Ryan Gregson.
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