Reebok dumps Nathan Deakes

Posted on December 5, 2007 by


Canberra’s world champion race walker Nathan Deakes has given new meaning to doing Europe on a shoestring.
After a year living in Italy to better his chances of winning gold at next year’s Olympics, Deakes returned home yesterday strapped for cash and lugging as many pairs of shoes as he could.
Deakes, who had to sell his car to afford flights home for him and his wife Antoinette, has recently lost the support of key sponsor and shoe supplier, footwear giant Reebok.
Given that Deakes walks up to 300km a week and goes through a pair of shoes every fortnight, having to buy his own shoes is something he’s now dreading.
“I’ve come home with very heavy bags, bringing home every pair of shoes I can,” Deakes said.
“Now they all come out of my own pocket, it’s something I need to really watch and make sure I look after them.
“But my feet being my livelihood I have to make sure I’m still wearing the correct shoes and ones that aren’t worn out, so it’s going to be expensive.”
Deakes said he felt abandoned by his shoe sponsor’s decision to drop him after five-and-a-half years.
Making the decision even more galling was the fact it came just weeks after Deakes won the 50km world championship in Osaka, making him one of Australia’s strongest gold medal hopes at Beijing.
“They decided I wasn’t in their plans, and it was within a couple of weeks of the world champsionships and less than a year from the Olympics, and that’s what makes it so disappointing.”
This week’s return to Australia after his stellar year away should have been the happiest of homecomings.
On Sunday he added a second Australian Athlete of the Year award to his impressive resume and he is now preparing for several weeks well-earned break.
But for Deakes the reality of competing in the less-than-glamourous form of athletics is a harsh one.
“I talked about all this last night at the awards dinner, not from a whingeing point of view, but to let the other athletes know that it can happen.
“I’m a full-time athlete trying to prepare to win a gold medal in Beijing in eight months and that’s my decision and you know that sacrifices come with it, but at the end of the day we all still have to pay our bills.
“‘The irony is that this is such a big sport in Europe, but in Australia we’re kind of at the bottom of the list.”
Despite the heavy financial cost, Deakes said he didn’t regret him and wife Antoinette’s decision to spend the year away. Antoinette had taken a year’s leave without pay from her public service job.
“We did Europe on our life savings,” Deakes said.
“But we had a goal of what I wanted to achieve in Osaka and we did that, so no one can begrudge the decisions we made.”
And while Deakes still has a few pairs of shoes left from his sponsorship, he said when it came time to buy new ones he wouldn’t feel any sense of loyalty.
“When I walk into a shoe shop now, I’ll just be looking for the best pair that fit my feet now, rather than staying aligned to the sponsor I was with.”