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New Zealand international race walker Alana Barber retires

Commonwealth silver medal-winning race walker Alana Barber has formally announced her retirement from the sport.

The 34-year-old, who represented her country at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and set 14 New Zealand race walking records, has decided to move on and start the next chapter of her life.

“It was hard decision to make because athletics had been such a huge part of my life,” explains Alana.

“The biggest motivation for me as an athlete has been the curiosity of seeing how fast I could go. Particularly over the past few years I’ve pushed myself as hard as possible and searched for ways of improving. I’ve put everything out there, but hand on heart I feel like I have no more to give.

“I just felt having come to the end of the Olympic cycle, it is the right time to retire.”

The daughter of Shirley Somervell, who finished seventh in the 800m at the 1974 Commonwealth Games, Alana featured as a two-lap runner in her youth but switched to competitive race walking at the age of 22 on the recommendation of her mum after picking up a knee injury running.

She made an immediate impact winning national silver and bronze race walking medals within a year of taking up the sport in 2010.

Relocating to England in 2012 she made a giant leap forward in her career in 2014 – scalping more than nine minutes from her 20km race walk PB.

However, a pivotal moment in her career came after opting to settle in Melbourne, Australia under the coaching guidance of Brent Vallance.

In 2015 she set three national 20km race walk records and made her debut in the Black Singlet finishing 18th in her speciality event at the World Championships in Beijing when ranked 50th and last going into the race.

The following year she fulfilled a life-long dream to compete at an Olympic Games, placing 35th in the 20km race walk at the Rio Games.

Alana enjoyed the best season of her career in 2018. At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games she won a silver medal in the 20km race walk and the following month set a national record time of 1:31:32 in Taicang, China which still stands today.

She also appeared at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, finishing 27th in the women’s 20km race walk.

The arrival of the global pandemic made life tough for Alana. Separated from her Polish partner and coach, Damian Blocki for an 18-month period her ability to train and compete had been compromised.

This year she competed several times overseas but missed out on the auto qualifying standard for Tokyo.

Alana, who is currently completing a psychology degree, intends to stay connected to the sport and coaches a group of junior race walkers in South Auckland.

The Race Walking Auckland athlete, who won seven New Zealand race walking titles is current national record holder for 20,000m Walk (track) and 20km Race Walk road, looks back fondly at her career accomplishments.

“I’m really satisfied with what I achieved,” she says. “It was a dream come true to represent New Zealand and win a Commonwealth silver medal. I feel very fortunate to have travelled around the world, training with different groups learning about the variety of approaches to training. Using my experience from seeing how the best in the world train, I hope Damian and I can use our skills to help the next generation of athletes.”

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