Golden Days Ahead For ‘Our’ Tate SmithFor any sport-loving Australian, it was up there with the greatest moments of the London Olympics. Shown live on television at about 6.30 in the evening, there was no need to set the alarm clock and drag your arse out of bed to catch this race. It was prime time, baby.
The race in question was the men’s K4 1000 metres, or the four-man kayak in layman’s terms, and at the front of the boat was former North Bondi Nipper Tate Smith. After years of hard work preparing for less than three minutes of hard slog, everything went to plan, and when the Aussie crew crossed the finish line they were half a boat length in front of second place.
“I’ve never felt anything like it,” Tate told The Beast. “It was the biggest moment in my life. You cross the line and years of hard work have gone into it and it’s like relief and you’re pumped up and you feel like you’re going to cry – it’s all this emotion at the same time.”
Four years ago in Beijing, the Australian K4 1000m team considered themselves a good chance for a medal. They finished tenth. Needless to say, it was a disappointing result.
“It was very hard because we put in a lot of hard work and we were a crew that was capable of getting a medal. There were a lot of things we didn’t do well there. I thought I was a better paddler than that.”
Having experienced this disappointment, Tate and his teammates – David Smith, Murray Stewart and Jake Clear – wanted to make sure that it did not happen again, so they altered their preparations accordingly this time around.
“This time we stayed over in Europe for four months before the Games and didn’t come home. We just trained and were away from all the media and hype and everything. We didn’t go to the opening ceremony. We weren’t even in the Olympic village. We stayed in a little house by the course. The little things we did obviously made a big difference in winning gold this time around.”
It’s been a tough slog for Tate, both in and out of the water. Despite his commitments as a full time athlete, he’s also had to work in his trade as a plumber to pay the bills in between competitions.
“Straight after the 2008 Olympics I went back to plumbing and I did that for two years. I just wanted to make some money and I didn’t know if I was going to keep paddling or not. Then we got some good results so I started working part-time and for the last 18 months before London I was just training full-time for that.”
After taking home gold in London, Tate’s days on the tools look like they’re all but up. Not only has he enlisted the services of a manager, the speaking engagements are already beginning to roll in.
“I don’t think I’ll be back plumbing for a while, put it that way. We’ve got Jane Fleming looking after us on the sports management side of things and it’s looking really positive. We’ve got corporate paddle days coming up and guest speaking roles and all those sorts of things.”
Despite having now achieved the ultimate goal in competitive kayaking, Tate couldn’t rule out having a crack at defending the title in Rio in 2012.
“At this stage I’d like to say yes and I know the other boys are really keen but it’s a long way away, four years. If everything is right and we’ve got money behind us and the crew wants to stay together then yeah, we want to try to go again.”