Shannon Eckstein confirmed his standing as one of the greatest Ironmen in history with a stunning performance in the final of the open Ironman at the DHL 2011 Aussies at Kurrawa Beach today.
Eckstein had to be at his best to hold off a fast-finishing Ky Hurst (Kurrawa), with younger brother, Caine (Kurrawa), taking out the bronze.
Hurst got within five board lengths of Eckstein in the final leg, but it wasn't enough as the current world champion mastered the conditions to win by 15 seconds over Hurst.
Cronulla’s Chris Allum set a strong early pace in the swim ahead of Eckstein and Hurst but when a wave came Hurst missed out and it was Allum and Eckstein in the lead.
Eckstein’s faster running gave him a small break after the transition to the ski and he held that advantage throughout the leg and went into the board paddle 20 metres in front of Allum, with Hurst a similar distance further back.
As Allum began to fade, Hurst, chasing his fifth Ironman title, set off in desperate pursuit of Eckstein and closed the gap but the leader wasn’t about to give him a hint of a chance.
“I was just trying to hold on,” Eckstein said.
“It seemed like when I turned the can and I got a wave every time. I got a wave on the board and it kept going through and I could enjoy the win.”
Hurst gave full credit to the victor but said he was planning to be back at the Australian championships in 2012 to try for another ironman win despite also aiming to be at the London Olympics next year as an open water swimmer.
“I’m extremely happy with second place,” he said.
“Shannon’s no slouch and over the short course distance he’s an absolute weapon and he proved it again today.
“I came in here 100 per cent ready to race and go to war. I did everything I possibly could to make sure I was up the front but unfortunately surf is surf. Some days you have a good day and some day you don’t.”
Eckstein now has four Australian titles to his name and edges closer to Ironman immortal Trevor Hendy's record of six. Eckstein grew up idolising Hendy and will now pursue the legend’s Ironman record.
“He’s won six and it’s a few more to go,” Eckstein said.
“I heard him out there on the jet ski yelling to me, which he’s probably not supposed to do, but it was good to have him out there yahooing to keep me motivated out around the cans.
“He’s taught me a lot growing up and its good to have him by my side and if I could emulate him that would be great.”
Reward for Eckstein will be an extended break from training for the first time in three years.
“There’ll be golf, surfing and I’m going to Europe for a month with my wife,” he said.
“It looks like Kellogg’s [ironman series] won’t be until December and that will be a good off-season for me.”
Earlier, Northcliffe's Courtney Hancock produced a stunning fightback to win her first open Ironwoman title, capitalising on an error from Met Caloundra's Rebecca Creedy on the final board leg.
Hancock won the women’s Kellogg’s series this year without winning an event but yesterday she turned consistency into conquest as she enjoyed a landmark victory.
The race looked set to go Creedy as the Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning swimmer led through the swim and ski legs.
She still held a handy advantage as she headed for home on the board but then slipped off as she prepared to catch a wave and Hancock rode past on the same wave and into the history books.
“I saw that wave come up and in the swim I actually missed the wave so I said to myself if an opportunity comes up I have to go for it,” Hancock said.
“I was confident in my fitness and I went hard from the start.”
Hancock said failing to win a race in the Kellogg’s series didn’t put any extra pressure on her today but she was still happy to prove any knockers wrong.
“Every time I race I go out there to enjoy myself,” she said.
“I love this sport, I love the surf and I never put any pressure on myself.
“I was just so glad to get a win. A lot or people probably doubted me over the season so just to get out there today I did it for myself and I’m so happy with that.”
She invited anyone who doubted she could win a big race to watch a replay of today’s race.
“I knew I could do it, I had belief in myself and I’m so happy,” she said.
“Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to win the series and I’ve wanted to win the Aussies and to do it in one season at 22 I’m absolutely overwhelmed.
“It still hasn’t hit me that I’ve won the title and I don’t think it will for a while either.”
Creedy was left reflecting on what might have been an outstanding achievement for someone who has changed sports and only competed the elite level of surf lifesaving for three seasons.
In the end it was that lack of experience that told as the pressure mounted in the last leg of the final.
“In the end these girls have got about 10 years’ surf experience on me and at moments like that it really shows,” Creedy said.
“ I guess it’s back to the drawing board and hopefully it’s something to work on for next year, I guess.
“I had the race experience but nothing can replace the years in the surf.”
Northcliffe's Tanyn Lyndon took out the under 19 Ironman final - harvpix.com
Meanwhile, in one of the races of the day, Northcliffe's Tanyn Lyndon took out the under 19 Ironman title, waiting until the final moment to outpace Currumbin's Jackson Maynard and Mooloolaba's Mitchell Miller.
After the race he was presented with the Saxon Bird Memorial Trophy, named after the ironman who died during last year’s Australian championships.
The trophy and medals for the under-19 placegetters were presented by Saxon’s father Phil and his sister Arielle.
“I was pretty good mates with Saxon, we’ve raced over the years and it’s an honour to win a race for him,” Lyndon said.
“Everyone’s down here doing because we love it and we’re doing it for him as well.”
For Lyndon it was a fourth consecutive Australian Ironman title after winning the under-15 title in 2007 and under-17 titles in 2008 and 2009. Last year’s events were not held after Saxon Bird’s death.
Amy Nurthen on her way to the under 19 Ironwoman title - Photo harvpix.com
In the under-19 Ironwoman final Terrigal’s Amy Nurthen staged a titanic duel with Manly’s Devon Halligan before catching a crucial wave in the board leg that took her too victory.
Nurthen and Halligan were closely matched throughout the race and went stroke for stroke on the board until Nurthen, who showed off her talents when she won the Portsea round of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain series this season, made her winning break.
“I knew I had to stick with Devon early in the swim and from then on it was head to head and when I got down that wave I was stoked,” she said.
“I’ve had no luck all weekend and I was determined to vent all my anger on this one.”
1 Eckstein, Shannon - Northcliffe
2 Hurst, Ky - Kurrawa
3 Eckstein, Caine - Kurrawa
4 Allum, Christopher - Cronulla
5 Jones, Corey - Met Caloundra
6 Martin, Trent - Avoca Beach
7 Newbiggin, Dylan - Mooloolaba
8 Minogue, Josh - Mooloolaba
9 Dougherty, Hugh - Tugun
10 Day, Ali - Warilla / Barrack Point
11 Trembath, Thomas - North Burleigh
12 Berg, Wes - North Burleigh
13 Hansen, Jack - Mooloolaba
14 Cain, Jarrad - Cudgen Headland
15 Clayton, Phillip - Kurrawa
16 Hill, Cory - Northcliffe
1 Hancock, Courtney - Northcliffe
2 Pluimers, Elizabeth - Northcliffe
3 Creedy, Rebecca - Met Caloundra
4 Richardson, Allira - Mooloolaba
5 Bennett, Alyce - North Burleigh
6 Marriott, Alicia - Mooloolaba
7 Moir, Brodie - North Burleigh
8 Allen, Danielle - Mooloolaba
9 Halligan, Devon - Manly
10 Davies, Miranda - Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park
11 Hancock, Bonnie - Northcliffe
12 Baxter, Joanna - Terrigal
13 Leo-Litzow, Casey - Northcliffe
14 Falzon, Candice - Manly
15 Cronin, Stephanie - Met Caloundra
16 Kenny, Tenille - Tallebudgera
Under 19 Ironman
1 Lyndon, Tanyn - Northcliffe
2 Maynard, Jackson - Currumbin Beach
3 MILLER, MITCHELL - Noosa Heads
4 Anderson, Nicholas - Mooloolaba
5 SMITH, SCOTT - Warilla / Barrack Point
6 Moyes, Jack - Terrigal
7 Gourley, Edward - Terrigal
8 McDonnell, Jarryd - Northcliffe
9 Gray, Nathan - Lennox
10 McGregor, Riley - Northcliffe
11 Klouzal, Trent - Manly
12 Thomas, Hayden - Lennox
13 GRIFFITHS, Ben - Bulli
14 TRIM, MITCHELL -Collaroy
15 HELSON, JACOB -Warilla / Barrack Point
16 O`Brien, Kyle - Cronulla
Under 19 Ironwoman
1 Nurthen, Amy - Terrigal
2 Halligan, Devon - Manly
3 PRIOR, MADDISON - Warilla / Barrack Point
4 Davis, Jessica - Terrigal
5 WHITE, JORDAN - Warilla / Barrack Point
6 Harris, Clare - Mooloolaba
7 Perkins, Kelly-ann - Mooloolaba
8 Bain, Alicia - Terrigal
9 RADFORD, DANIELLE - Swansea Belmont
10 HARRIS, Jean - Maroochydore
11 JONES, KIRRA - Warilla / Barrack Point
12 HIGGISON, KIRSTY - Warilla / Barrack Point
13 LEMKE, HANNAH - Cooks Hill
14 LEMARSENY, HAYLEY - Noosa Heads
15 Stuart, Larnee - Kurrawa
16 Britton, Alexandra - Carlton Park
17 PECCHIARI, LARA - Warilla / Barrack Point
18 CARBERRY, EMMA - Warilla / Barrack Point
Find more information on the DHL 2011 Aussies here.