In 2014, the Eckstein brothers, Shannon and Caine, made it a family quinella when they finished first and second in the Australian open Ironman final at Scarborough beach.
Four years later, there was little difference at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships at the same venue today as eight-time Australian champion Shannon was first across the line in his heat of the Ironman championship, with Caine just behind.
Both looked sharp and were untroubled at the head of the field, raising hopes of another 1-2 finish when the final is raced on Sunday afternoon.
“It suits us pretty well,” Caine said of the small but tricky surf.
“It’s nice grindy races and we’ve done a lot of this sort of stuff in the river back home since we were pretty much 16 so we know how to do it.
“We’ve just got to get there on finals day and do it.”
The result put the Northcliffe pair safely into the next round of the blue riband event, where they have been joined by most of the leading Ironman contenders, including Nutri-Grain series winner Matt Bevilacqua (Kurrawa), Queensland champion Ali Day (Surfers Paradise) and NSW title winner Daniel Collins (Redhead).
Other heat winners were Hayden White (Currumbin), Max Brooks (Newport), Kendrick Louis (Manly) and Matt Poole (Kurrawa).
“In this weather and whatever the conditions are you’ve just got to put your best foot forward and be positive,” Day said.
“Everyone has to go through it and everyone has to deal with it.
“You just have to take it day by day and race by race then soon it will be Sunday and the sun will be out, hopefully.”
The Ironwoman heats saw the biggest casualty of the first round when Northcliffe’s Danielle McKenzie finished well back missed out a place in the semi-finals.
As a strong ski paddler, McKenzie should have been suited by the ski-swim-board order of the race but fell well behind in the swim and was unable to finish in the top eight.
Otherwise, the big names rose to the top in the four heats, with Noosa Heads clubmates Jordan Mercer and Lana Rogers, Harriet Brown (Northcliffe) and Rebecca Creedy (Kurrawa) the winners, and the likes of Georgia Miller (Newport), Courtney Hancock (Northcliffe), Jemma Smith (Umina) and Lizzie Welborn (North Bondi) also qualifying.
Welborn had a few anxious moments after being hit hard by a wave at the start of the ski leg but eventually worked her way into a qualifying position.
Many of the Ironwoman competitors agreed Sunday’s final remains a wide open event with no dominant favourite.
“Part and parcel of the Australian titles is making it through these qualifying rounds, that’s the biggest part of the Australian titles,” Mercer said.
“This is one small tick and there are plenty more challenges to come this week but it feels nice to get a good race out of the way.
“This has been a long racing season for us and I think we are moving the fastest we ever have as a female field and the depth is bigger than I’ve ever experienced.
“These are the conditions I want to be racing in and to have victories when you are racing the best of the best, nothing compares to that.”