The 22-year-old education student from the University of Queensland out-walked Canada's Benjamin Thorne to win by just three seconds.
In muggy and wet conditions, on the road adjacent to the World Cup Stadium, Bird-Smith was always in the lead group pushing the pace, and just waiting for his moment to pounce.
"We worked hard through most of the race, I was pulling the pace for all of them and they just sat behind me and I said if they just want to sit and chase then I'll race them my way. It played into my hands really for the last 5km," said the newly-crowned gold medallist.
With just one lap remaining, three athletes remained in the lead group – Bird-Smith, Thorne and Russia's Roman Evstifeev, who was disqualified in an attempt to stay in the fight for gold.
"There was a quite a rise on each lap, and I was starting to cramp pulling myself up it each lap. But I was able to hang in there for the final sprint, which is what I love to do," an elated Bird-Smith reflected.
Bird-Smith edging clear in the final 100m to take the gold in 1:21.30 from Thorne, with Japan's Daisuke Matsunaga in third.
Bird-Smith finished 11th at the world championships in Moscow two years ago, but the walkers missed the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow after the event was sliced from the program. He is looking forward to the challenge of the world championships in Beijing next month.
"Getting into the top eight, that's what I want. I want to assert myself. I'm only in my second senior team and a lot of these guys are seasoned competitors, but I'm never gonna back down from a fight," he said.
Deakin University's Rhydian Crowley finished in 13th place with a time of 1:28:12.
Bird-Smith's win is Australia's second of the Games, following swimmer Justin James (Australian National University), who successfully defended his 200m individual medal title in a dead-heat on Monday.
Athletics continues with the men's and women's 100m semi-finals later today.
Korean-born Sydney University law student Jin Su Jung, the University of Queensland’s Tom Gamble and Deakin University’s Ashley Whittaker will all be seeking spots in their respective finals.
Hurdler and Sydney University mechatronics student Michelle Jenneke also makes her first appearance in the 100m hurdles.
Athletics: 8-12 July, Gwangju Universiade Main Stadium, Gwangju, Korea.
Further information on the Universiade, including schedules and results, can be found here www.gwangju2015.com
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