Wednesday, 7 November 2018

"I started walking at nine months old."

That's the caption on Declan Tingay's Instagram account.

19 years later he is still walking, but he is doing it a lot more, and for a lot longer. 120 kilometres a week, in fact.

That is about five times more than the average Australian adult.

Tingay has a good reason for covering so much ground. He is a rising star in one of Australia's most successful athletic disciplines — race walking.

If sprinting is the show sport of the Olympics, race walking is its less glamourous cousin. But training for it is still time-consuming.

"It's just about two training sessions a day, every day," he said.

"A middle to long-distance walk in the morning at a steady pace, followed by either an easy walk or a run in the afternoon."

"Maybe 100 to 120 kilometres a week, and then a few gym sessions chucked in there too."

It is a lonely grind, with each training session taking around an hour and a half, and requiring food and drink — which his mum Sonia provides from a support bike.

The hard work is paying off. In July, Tingay produced the best performance of all time by an Australian junior, setting a new 10,000-metre Australian junior record.

The previous best belonged to current Commonwealth Games champion and Olympic bronze medallist Dane Bird-Smith.

"I got to Finland, did a lot of work on my technique, got a lot quicker, got a lot more confident on the track," Tingay said.

"I came away with a 15-second personal best, and Australian record, and came fourth. I was really happy with it."

Race walking is Australia's most successful athletic pursuit at the Olympics, yielding eight medals across the 20 and 50 kilometre events, equal with hurdles.

Tingay's coach, his father Steven, believes his charge is capable of joining those ranks.

"The goal would be for Declan to join that list of fantastic athletes representing Australia," Steven Tingay said.

"Obviously the Australian record, the best performance by an Australian junior of all time, puts him on that trajectory."

But the younger Tingay is tempering expectations, despite the parallels between himself and Bird-Smith.

"It's a long time to look ahead for me personally, so Uni Games, maybe World Championships for next year," he said.

"That's what I'm looking at for the time being, that's what my major focus is. I myself will reassess once those are over and start looking at Olympics, future World Championships and World Cups.

Tingay did plenty of sport as a child, playing rugby from the age of five, as well as swimming and Australian Rules football.

He also did Little Athletics.

"I enjoyed it all, and I enjoyed athletics too, but I just gravitated towards what I was more successful at," Tingay said.

His father recalls Declan being good but not outstanding at most events — until something changed.

"At around about age 12, 13, 14, something seemed to click. He had a naturally very good technique for walking, and something clicked and he started winning," Steven said.

"It sort of steamrolled from there. The trajectory through the juniors and into the seniors has been sort of amazing over the past five years."

Tingay will be hoping he can maintain his rapid rise as he moves into the senior ranks and onto the world stage

Media references

Originally published by ABC News

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