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Benedict Tufnell

Josh Dunkley-Smith Hangs Up The Oars Shortly After Breaking 2k Erg World Record

by Benedict Tufnell

When Rachel Quarrell spoke to Josh last year for issue 17 of Row360, Josh was taking the post-olympic year away from the national team, while continuing training under the auspices of Bill Tait and the Australian Institute of Sport. At that point the plan was still to return this year to the now centralised Australian squad and regain their places on the team.

But today the two-time Olympic silver medallist, Joshua Dunkley-Smith, has announced that he will be no longer pursuing selection for the Australian Rowing Team for 2018 and will be leaving the Reinhold Batschi Men’s National Training Centre to focus on his career and personal life.

Dunkley-Smith won Olympic silver medals at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the Men’s Four and also has five Senior World Rowing Championship medals to his name.

Dunkley Smith sitting third from right.

On Saturday 10 March 2018, Dunkley-Smith, (now verified by Concept2) broke the World Record for fastest ever 2000m on an indoor rowing machine by setting a time of 5 minutes 35.8 seconds. The 28-year-old’s feat saw him post a time that bettered New Zealand’s Rob Waddell’s 10-year-old record of 5:36.6 by almost a second.

“I am now hesitant to put myself in a boat, when I know I may not be able to uphold my responsibilities, because my head and heart is focused elsewhere.”

“It was probably something that I have been working towards for a quite a while. It is one of those things that has always been there but never a main stated goal, as it’s always more about the racing on the water. However, seeing how long the record had stood for, and having the opportunity to go for it, I was glad I was able to do that before I take some time away,” admitted Dunkley-Smith.

The world’s fastest ever 2k, by Dunkley-Smith on March 10th.

Rowing Australia Performance Director, Bernard Savage said, “We have seen this week the calibre of athlete that Josh is. It is clear that Josh has spent time considering this decision, so while we are obviously disappointed to see Josh step away from the sport, we respect his decision and will do all we can to assist him as he focuses more on life outside the boat.

“He is a superb athlete and has contributed greatly to the Australian Rowing Team over the last 11 years. The combination of both raw athletic ability and experience has made him a wonderful addition to the Reinhold Batschi Men’s National Training Centre this season. He has clearly made an impact on the group in his short time at the NTC. He will definitely be missed but I know the athletes, coaches and staff wish him all the best and genuinely want to see him happy.

“We will continue to engage with Josh and remain in close contact. I have made it very clear that should he wish to return to the sport, we will support and assist him accordingly when the time comes.”   

Dunkley-Smith, who made his senior team debut for Australia in 2009, has said the following on his decision to step away:

“It is something that I have been considering for a while, as I’ve gotten older things have become more important to me, one of those things is spending time with family and with my partner Candice. We have many plans together for our future and I want us to spend time together and enjoy being a couple in our twenties before our future continues and things change again.”

“I know what is required to perform at the level I want to perform at, and achieve what I want to achieve, and I am now hesitant to put myself in a boat, when I know I may not be able to uphold my responsibilities, because my head and heart is focused elsewhere.”

“On a personal level, it has been challenging for me to be centralised in Canberra, but I think the environment itself is a good one. Spending time there, with the guys, I see that the group is really on the right track and they are set up to have some really good results, with or without me.”

“I am incredibly grateful for the support I have had as I have made this decision. I have obviously been talking a lot to Candice and my mum (Addy Bucek), both experienced athletes, and with Drew Ginn [three-time Olympic rowing gold medallist, and member of Dunkley-Smith’s silver medal-winning Men’s Four in 2012] and also former VIS Head Coach, Bill Tait.”

“I am also extremely grateful for the support that’s been offered to me by Rowing Australia.  I am unsure if I am going to retire, that is a big decision to make. Everyone has been encouraging and made it clear that I am always welcome if I do feel that I have made the wrong decision. I believe it’s now about stepping back and refocusing before making such a big decision.”

See our full profile on Dunkley-Smith published last year in issue 017 of Row360.

Photos © Richard Wearne

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