Caine Eckstein has produced one of the most dominant performances in history to win all five elimination races and with it a maiden Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series title in the season’s final race at a sundrenched and heaving Noosa Heads beach today.
Eckstein came into the Eliminator event five points behind series leader Ali Day but after his stunning victory and Day’s laboured eighth place the younger Eckstein finally broke the 13-year stranglehold on the professional series held by his older brother Shannon, Zane Holmes and Ky Hurst.
Ky Hurst finished the day with a withering last swim to grab second from Shannon Eckstein and Hugh Dougherty. Hurst was left lamenting a round three disqualification in Newcastle after today’s result left him fourth overall in the pointscore, 17 points behind the winner, ten shy of runner-up Day and just five behind Shannon.
Earlier Liz Pluimers was just as assertive as Eckstein, handing out a surf lifesaving lesson to her rivals by taking out all three races and with it the second IronWoman Series title of her career.
But the day belonged to Caine Eckstein, the five-time Coolangatta Gold winner who for so long has stood in the shadow of older brother Shannon when it came to short course racing and the professional series. Not today.
Eckstein revealed he hadn’t really considered taking out the overall title and the Grant Kenny medal, believing that was always the domain of his older brother.
“I have always trained for and focussed on the (Coolangatta) Gold and thought that the Nutri-Grain Series was Shannon’s thing,” Eckstein said.
“I really didn’t think of it as a chance for me although I have more confidence in myself this year. Last year if I came into the last race five points behind I might not have thought I could win it.”
Whether it was on the board, ski, running or swimming Caine was in the top four all day and always found his way to the sand at the end of the final leg. He said afterwards he had tried to get out in front early to minimise the chances of ‘making as goose of myself’.
"I felt pretty good to start with, and I do feel good when I get good starts, so everything went well in the first few races," Eckstein said.
"I just wanted to make sure I didn’t have a shocker at the end and make a goose of myself so I was just lucky I just finished off well.
"The last race is always the key. I didn’t know where the other guys were or if Shannon was going to beat me, but I got into the shore and saw Ky’s yellow jersey and that scared me even more so it was head down bum up for the last few metres, I tried not to look around, and I’m just stoked to come away with it.”
Eckstein also took time out to pay tribute to a gallant and humble Day, saying the 21-year-old and his injured training partner Kendrick Louis, had a big future ahead of him.
"Guys like Ali and Kendrick definitely have massive futures,” Eckstein said.
“Ali is so consistent and probably the next step for him is to win a few races.
"He probably doesn’t quite know how to win races yet like a Ky Hurst or a Zane Holmes, but in the next few years when Ali gets that type of determination he’ll just be winning race left right and centre."
Despite having the title ripped from his grasp Day, true to form praised the Eckstein’s said he was over the moon with what had been a breakthrough year.
“It was such a good year for me. Without bragging I’d never thought after finishing eighth in this race last year that I would be second overall,” Day said.
“I’m a bit disappointed that I missed out on the winner’s car, but I’m so happy to be on the podium next to Shannon and Caine who are heroes of mine and words can’t describe how I’m feeling.
“I think I did run out of puff. Today really did show that I didn’t do the work that Caine and Shannon did.
“Those boys were up there from the word go today. They picked up the inside alley all the time and I probably should have raced a bit smarter and done the same thing.
“But good luck to them, it’s awesome to see Caine win the Coolangatta Gold, win three races this year and go on to win his first Series so I’m proud for him and stoked that I got second."
In the IronWoman event Liz Pluimers claimed her second win of the summer ahead of Brodie Moir and Jordan Mercer with former series leader Kristyl Smith finishing fourth.
Pluimers was dominant from the opening gun as she won each of the three races to clean sweep the eliminator format and claim a seven-point overall Series victory over close friend Kristyl Smith, who had to endure her sixth runner-up finish in the Series.
The 25-year old Pluimers had previously recorded powerful performances at Surfers Paradise (2nd) and Newcastle (2nd), before winning two of the last three races at Perth and Noosa to run away with the title.
It is Pluimers’ first IronWoman Series win since 2008, seeing her break a two-year bridesmaid tag after finishing second in the previous two editions of the Coolangatta Gold, Australian Championships and IronWoman Series.
The Northcliffe based Pluimers was ecstatic with the performance and credited her improved run legs as the reason for her memorable triumph.
“After Portsea (where she was 11th) I was so disappointed, but everyone has had a bad race this year, so it all came together in the end for me so I am really stoked,” Pluimers said.
“I’ve definitely being working on my run leg over the last couple of years and that was a major difference today.
“I have seen how legends such as Trevor Hendy and Shannon Eckstein have used the run to their effect in the past, so I really wanted to use that to my advantage today and in that last race I just went for it.
“Not having the black (leaders) togs definitely helped me a little as I didn’t have to think about it too much and I could just go out there and focus and give it my all.
“Obviously being a runner-up myself in the last couple of years I can relate to Kristyl, but I’m stoked to being out of the second place as well.”
Despite feeling the emotions of another narrow defeat, Smith was up-beat about the result and credited her close mate Pluimers for the fantastic win.
“I’m happy. If you look at the calibre of the girls we have now, for me to come second is quite good,” Smith said.
“Those run legs really hurt. I did everything I wanted to do, but basically there was just 100 metres of swimming and the rest was running which wasn’t the best for me.
“In the end though, the fittest person won. Liz was so incredible on the sand today and absolutely she was the best.
“I knew all along that she would come back after her result in Portsea, and she definitely showed today that she is the dominant ironwoman out there.”
Meanwhile, last year’s champion Courtney Hancock survived a tenth placed finish in race two and an early elimination, to finish third in the Series standings.
She held off a fast finishing Jordan Mercer who closed to within nine points of the podium, after rattling home in the last race to claim her third straight top five finish in front of her family and friends.
For final results of round six of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series, click here
For the final pointscore after the sixth round of the 2011/12 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series, click here
For final results of round six of the IronWoman Series click here
For the final pointscore after the sixth and final round of the 2011/12 IronWoman Series, click here