AUSSIES Wrap – Day 1 Masters Championships – 18 April
MASTERS OF THE SAND AND SURF SHINE AT AUSSIES
Surf Life Saving’s biggest stars mixed it with the best surf lifesavers from around the country on the opening day of the 2021 masters competition for the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.
Among an impressive field were the stars including Darren Mercer (Noosa Heads), Grant Kenny (Alexandra Headlands), Nathan Smith (Wanda), Kristy Munroe (Alexandra Headland) and Bonnie Hancock (Kurrawa) to name a few.
Mercer stepped up to the plate jagging a silver medal in the 50-54yo Men’s Board Race, as he also prepares to line up in the Open events later this week with daughter Jordie Mercer in the Mixed Double Ski race.
“It’s awesome, it’s so good to have that local Aussies – they’re so few and far between. I’m really enjoying it, I’ve been here all weekend with the Youth and now the Masters and then obviously through the rest of the week with the Opens
“We’ve got a good bunch of Masters who all train together and who really enjoy it. They’re doing it because obviously they want to do it, and it’s a good way to have fun and keep fit. The Noosa crew have taken a little step up this year, we’ve got a lot of guys that are doing well.
“I love it, I really enjoy it and to still be going around now and from all those years ago. My mum and dad, John and Maureen, are here to watch and they still love it. It’s a great atmosphere and a great venue too,” he said.
Surf Life Saving is renowned for producing Olympic kayak champions with a few of the Tokyo Olympic squad set to line up during the week for the Opens. But among the ranks today was 1996 Olympic kayaker Jim Walker (North Bondi) who took gold in the 45-49yo Open Men’s Ski.
“Isn’t it great to be back, what made this one even more special is to catch up with people you haven’t seen for two years,” said Walker.
“I had some super hard competition today, like every age group. I don’t think there was any easy event in any discipline today, but I was lucky to get over the top of Steve Dalton from South Australia. It’s great that he always makes the trek, and brings a lot of people and gives back to the sport.
“He’s a good all round guy, but when we went down there and raced I didn’t care about his commitment to lifesaving, I just wanted to get on top of him because when we were here last time in 2016 he came over the top of me! So I had to be wary whether he would do it again but today I was fortunate enough to get the gold.”
Alexandra Headlands’ Marilyn Clarence delivered an impressive three gold medals for her local club, taking out the 65-69 year old Ironwoman, surf ski and board races.
“I’m really proud of myself because that water out there is just moving so fast and the wind is so strong but I managed to pick the conditions, so I was happy with that,” Marilyn said.
“I’m so happy with how I’ve bought myself up to this level…Jack and Jamo should be very proud of putting us oldies through.”
After moving to the Sunshine Coast from Newcastle in NSW, Marilyn Clarence joined Alexandra Headlands and with it the senior training squad with the likes of Ironwoman Lana Rogers.
“Jack’s taken me under his wing this year coming up from Newcastle, Jack’s let me go with the Opens and hang on the back,” Marilyn said of Alexandra Headlands Coach Jack Hansen.
“‘Maz’ is amazing racing in the 60+, she’s unbelievable and what she does week after week and jumps in with our senior squad is unbelievable,” Hansen said.
“We’ve got a few new recruits in the Ironwoman this year with Lana Rogers and Maz Clarence and that’s probably as good as you can get, so we’re very very lucky to have her.”
Aussies oldest ever competitor William ‘Billy’ Ryan (Coolangatta) showed just how special the sport is, at the ripe old age of 86 still going around the cans, for he believes this will be his last time. While he didn’t walk away with the medal, he was thrilled to be back at the Aussies.
“This is my swan song, my last Aussies. I train for about 4 hours a day. When I was younger I did the beach sprint, beach flags, distance run, surf race, board race and team events,” he said.
“I’m seeing people now I’ve never seen before, but it’s also good to see lots of old friends too.”
The Smith family are synonymous with the Aussies with siblings Tiarne, Nathan and Kristyl all carving out their own piece of sporting history. But the Masters is well and truly Tiarne’s (Northcliffe) domain, notching up more than 40 gold medals in the Masters competition over the years.
Today she added three more to the tally, winning the 40-44 Ironwoman, surf ski and board races.
“I’m not renowned for my ski paddling, but I feel like I’m getting stronger. Obviously learning to ski a little bit later in life, it’s a little bit harder to take up so I’m happy with that race. We combined with the younger age group, so you never quite know where you’re sitting but I’m really happy to get the win,” said Smith.
Stepping up into the 70-74 year category for the first time, Tasmanian surf sports legend Don Marsh added some Gold to his 40 plus years worth of Aussies medals taking out the Single Ski and Ironman with a bronze in the surf race.
“Someone asked me the other day what Aussies number this would be for me and I was trying to add it up and it would be over 40… since about 1967/68, that was my first Aussies at Wanda in Sydney,” Don said.
“I’ve come up for the first time into the 70-74 age group this year, so a new age group and it’s a bit tricky out there, you wouldn’t want to make a mistake and as I just showed then I swam off course you can’t see a lot coming up to the cans, so it’s going to be a no mistake Ironman race.
“Over the years I’ve won at the bottom end of the age group and the top end of the age group, and it’s neither here nor there, you’re just racing who you’re racing and they’re all good.”
Bondi’s Dori Miller, who hails from the USA, continued her impressive form to claim her 10th consecutive swim title. Known for her swimming prowess, among the elite group who have swum the English Channel, Miller was thrilled to be back at the beach with her Bondi teammates.
“It feels pretty good – I’m glad to have won that. That’s my 10th Australian Championships Surf Race gold in a row,” Dori said.
“I came from America, and I didn’t know anything about it (surf lifesaving) but I just met some people who said you should come to the surf club and do your bronze and maybe compete.
“So I was really just looking to make friends, have something to do and keep swimming so that’s how I got involved.”
In the Beach Sprints local Carol Jones from Mooloolaba took out the 55-59 Beach Sprint in front of a home crowd under the lights of the beach arena.
“It’s amazing, I’ve just been training so long for this and I worked hard and got there in the end,” Carol said.
Meanwhile in the Male 55-59 Stephen Nelson from Queenscliff took out the gold and said he wasn’t expecting to win.
“Feels good, I can’t believe it, I wasn’t expecting that,” he said.
The Australian Surf Life Saving Championships will be held on the Sunshine Coast from 16-24 April, with more than 5,900 competitors going head-to-head across three beaches and nine action packed days of competition.
Daily Aussies Podcast
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