Four-time Olympian Danny Collins knows just how competitive it is when the gun goes in an Australian open single ski race final.
Like so many elite ski paddlers, the Olympic silver and bronze medallist has mixed and matched it with the best in the world on flat-water and in the surf.
“I grew up in Blacktown in the western suburbs of Sydney and we used to go to Avoca on the Central Coast on weekends and that’s where I was introduced to surf clubs and paddling,” said Collins.
“Champions like Greg Jarmaine and Murray Braund taught me how to paddle and I owe them a lot for getting me started, especially Jarmaine, who always had time for youngsters.”
Collins went on to represent Australia at the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, winning K2 500 bronze and silver with partner Andrew Trim in Atlanta and Sydney respectively.
And like so many of his paddling peers Collins continued to pick up his surf ski paddle when the surf carnival season came around.
The closest he ever got to individual Aussies gold came in 1995 when he dead-heated for silver with North Burleigh team mate David Reeves, behind 13-time winner and Olympic gold medallist Clint Robinson in a hotly contested single ski final at Kurrawa.
Clint Robinson taking gold at the 2002 Aussies at Kurrawa
He then won double ski gold with Heath Brown from North Burleigh in the same year before taking the doubles title again, this time with Ironman Trevor Hendy for Surfers Paradise in 1998.
“The single has always been one of the most competitive events on the Aussies program and I would like to have won just one title so that’s why you have to dip your hat to Clint for winning 13…amazing stuff,” Collins said.”
“To win two double ski golds was pretty special and I’m thankful for them.
“Competition will be no different this year, as soon as the gun goes it will be like a group of fighter pilots flying through the surf.
“The break will make a huge difference and sorts out the field that’s for sure so much will depend on the conditions.
“But there is no doubt the single ski be one of the ‘must watch’ events on the Aussies program.”
Wallace heads all-star Olympic field
Of the Olympians who are vying for top ski honours, there is none bigger than Tugun’s Beijing golden boy Ken Wallace and his 2008 team mates Tate Smith (Northcliffe), Jacob Clear (Burleigh Heads-Mowbray Park) and David Smith (Warilla Barrack Point) who all head an impressive list.
It’s a list that will also include London hopeful, 2009 and defending champion Murray Stewart (Manly); two-time Olympian, 2007 champion and reigning NSW Champion Peter Scott; renown kayaker and World Cup medallist Luke Morrison (Moana, SA), emerging kayaker Joel Simpson and New Zealand champion Kevin Morrison (Northcliffe) and Brendan Sarson (Trigg Island).
Wallace has won 13 Aussies gold medals, including five open Taplin titles and the under 18 and under 19 single ski but he has never won an Australian open single ski championship – something that he would dearly love in his trophy cabinet.
“With so much emphasis on my kayaking career I hardly get the chance to jump on the ski these days but I always look forward to the Aussies,” said Wallace.
“All of us would dearly love to win the open single title and it is so competitive and in the surf anything can happen.
“But I certainly enjoy the team events and will line up in the Taplin Relay again as well as the ski relay and the mixed double ski with my sister Bernadette.”
Redhead’s Peter Scott, at 37 is still mixing it with the younger brigade and showed his paddling power, his prowess and his surf knowhow to add another NSW State singles crown to his medal tally, as well as the double ski and ski relay.
“There is nothing like winning the Aussies,” said Scott, who finally broke through for his Australian single ski gold, beating Robinson and Maroochydore’s Ben Allen in 2007.
“To paddle across that line knowing you are the Australian champion is something all of us paddlers aspire to.”
Scott had finished third to Robinson in 2001 and again in 2008 and will line up in a field of almost 500 in 2011.
It will be a case of gloves off boys as the fighter pilots start their engines.
Flood headlines star-studded women's field
Naomi Flood doesn’t believe it doing things by halves and when she lines up for this year’s Aussies she may well be missing from the Ironwoman field but she will certainly be going all out to make her presence felt
Flood retired from professional Ironwoman racing last year to concentrate on having a crack at the 2012 London Olympic kayak team.
And so far, so good for Flood, who will undergo a final World Championship trial in Sydney next Monday and Tuesday.
She was one of the real stars of the Australian Canoe Kayak Sprint Nationals in Adelaide and sits in the box seat for a major selection step towards London.
Flood, now based at the AIS on the Gold Coast, under head women’s coach and Olympian Katrin Borchert, is a professional athlete again “without making the money.”
“I feel like I have made the right move at the right time to join the AIS group,” said Flood.
“I am feeling good and happy within myself. I am living at Miami and ride my bike two kilometres to the AIS training base twice a day and I do feel like I’m getting there.
“And I get invited to the Olympic processing next Wednesday so that’s exciting.”
Then it’s back in the surf for Flood, who will be re-united with her Manly club mates for an all-out assault on the Aussies.
She will contest six events; including the single ski, as she chases her second National title, as well as the double ski, mixed double, ski relay, Taplin Relay and also the women’s belt which she won last year.
“I am really looking forward to the Aussies and getting to sit under the Manly tent again – it is so much fun,” said Flood.
“We have a great group of girls and to have Candice Falzon with us this year is very exciting, she’s so dedicated.”
Honour Roll – 2000 to 2010
Open Men's Ski Race
Open Women's Ski Race
2000-01:K.Holmes (Kawana Waters)
2002-03:B.Collie (Maroochydore, QLD)
2003-04:K.Holmes (Kawana Waters, QLD)
2004-05:K.Munroe (Alexandra Headland)
2007-08:F.Manciet (Caperton Sauretage Cotier)** H.Bateup (Kurrawa, AUS)
2008-09: C Leo-Litzow (Northcliffe)
For more news and information on the DHL 2011 Aussies, please visit www.sls.com.au/aussies