Kendrick Louis has known pleasure and pain on the sands of Scarborough Beach but nothing as exhilarating as winning the Australian open Ironman championship today.
Not only is it the first open Ironman title for the 27-year-old but also the first for the famous Manly club that has had winners in almost all events but had failed to claim the blue riband race.
Louis held off the challenges of Coolangatta Gold king Ali Day (Surfers Paradise) and eight-time champion Shannon Eckstein (Northcliffe) after being near the front for the entire journey and then breaking away on a wave in the final board leg.
He is the first new winner of the Ironman since 2013, while there was also a changing of the guard in the open Ironwoman final as Noosa Heads’ Lana Rogers raced away to her first Aussies title with a magnificent victory over Rebecca Creedy (Kurrawa) and Lizzie Welborn (North Bondi).
Louis won the under-19 Ironman title twice at Scarborough in 2008 and 2009, but also suffered one of his lowest moments on the West Australian sand when he suffered a knee injury that threatened his career.
That pain was banished from his mind as he enjoyed the biggest win of what has been a topsy-turvy career.
“It’s 10 years since I won my last Aussies Ironman title here in the under-19s, it’s a bloody bittersweet victory, I can tell you,” he said.
“I think over the last few years I’ve really learnt to harness and control my emotions.
“I ran around Dan Collins (Redhead) and overtook Shannon in that transition into the board and I thought ‘I’ve still got something in me’.
“I really worked the start on the board and got out clean. I just had to get the job done. When I picked up the last little wave the emotions took over.”
Louis was near the front of the pack after the opening ski leg and then moved to the lead in the swim before a wave brought a host of competitors alongside him.
On the board, he and Eckstein moved clear and looked to have the race between them until Day stormed into calculations just before the winning wave carried Louis to the beach as he pumped his fists in the air.
Rogers was also able to celebrate her breakthrough Ironwoman victory after opening a winning lead with a powerhouse swim and holding it on the board.
“I never thought that would happen,” the 22-year-old said.
“Aussies is a completely different ball game to our entire season and its anyone’s race on anyone’s day and you’ve just got to go for it, and that’s what I managed to do today.”
Rogers was hoping to do well enough on the ski, her weakest discipline, to stay in contention in the tricky surf, and it was mission accomplished when she moved into the swim alongside early leader Jemma Smith (Umina) and Creedy.
She swam well enough to move ahead of the other two, with just a narrow lead over Creedy in the transition to the board.
Like Louis in the next race, Rogers then paddled to a good lead and rode home on a wave that confirmed her triumph.
She paid tribute to her ski coach and mentor Sharlene King, who wrapped Rogers in a bear hug on the Scarborough sand, chanting “You did it, you did it”.
“She has been on this rollercoaster ride with me for nearly two years and she has brought my ski paddling from nothing to, ‘hey I’m a threat on that ski leg’.”
Rogers’ effort, which was followed by an open women’s Taplin relay victory with her Noosa Heads teammates Jordan Mercer and Electra Outram, probably surpassed the surf lifesaving success of her father Greg Rogers, who won a surf teams gold medal in 1967 and a surf race bronze medal, as well as representing Australia in the pool at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics.
Noosa completed a near-perfect Taplin race, with Mercer leading out on the ski, Rogers holding the advantage and then Outram, an under-17 competitor who has contested countless races this week, pulled away from her older rivals before celebrating on a booming wave that carried the team to victory ahead of Sunshine Coast rivals Maroochydore and Alexandra Headland.
Currumbin pulled off a stunning surprise in the open men’s Taplin as its team dotted with youngsters took the gold medal ahead of Trigg Island and Newport.
Among the winning team’s line-up were swimmer Ky Kinsela and board paddler Joe Engel, who earlier won gold in the under-19 Taplin relay, with both playing vital roles in the open race.
Currumbin and Noosa also found success in the open surf races, with Currumbin’s Prue Davies taking gold in the women’s race and Noosa’s Nick Sloman following up his 2017 under-19 surf race victory with the open title as he edged out City of Perth’s Simon Huitenga in a desperately close finish.