Eckstein in strong ironman display
GOLD Coaster Shannon Eckstein claimed his fourth Kellogg's Nutri-Grain surf ironman series crown with a dominant performance at Sydney's Coogee Beach yesterday.
Eckstein powered home to win the final from Pierce Leonard and Corey Jones with arch-rival and defending champion Zane Holmes back in fourth place.
It was a relaxed Eckstein who led through the opening ski and swim legs and as hard as Leonard tried he could not catch his more experienced clubmate on the final paddle home on the board.
Eckstein, who finished the series ahead of Holmes with rookie Matt Poole third, said he was relieved to have reclaimed the title after blowing his chances last year.
“Last year I had some shoulder and neck trouble and I couldn't do the kilometres in the pool that I usually do and I was underdone,” Eckstein said.
“This year I've done a lot more swimming and that's a lot of our base work, and I knew I was a fitter than last year.
“Last year I had the title to lose, I was going for three in a row, and maybe that added pressure played on my mind a little bit.
“This year I had nothing to lose even though I was in front on the points, Zane was defending champion, and for me it was get out there and do my best.”
Eckstein's victory means he currently holds every major ironman title - Australian, world, Nutri-Grain series - apart from the long-distance Coolangatta Gold, which he did not contest but was won by his brother Caine.
Earlier, Naomi Flood narrowly secured her first women's series title despite finishing sixth to defending series champion Elizabeth Pluimers in the final.
“My face is sore from smiling so much,” Flood said moments after being told she had won.
“I work at a bank but I'm not so good with numbers so as I ran to the finish I wasn't sure what had happened.
“I realised I would be first or second but to come out on top was amazing.”
In the teams event, Eckstein, Holmes and Pluimers led the Southern Queensland Sunfish to the title.
The teams' title went to the Sunfish on 28 points, ahead of the Northern NSW Hammers (25) and Northern Qld Lightning (23).
- In the Far North Coast branch titles held at Brunswick Heads yesterday, Byron Bay ran out winners of the overal club championship with 490 points from Cudgen Headland (314) with Lennox Head (265) third.
Competitor numbers were well down on previous years due to the NSW titles being held at the same time at Swansea-Belmont.
Despite having a small contingent, Cudgen was still able to record 18 first placings with Scott McCarthy picking up five in the open division and Nathan Sharpe also claiming five in both the open and under 15 divisions. At the NSW titles, Kaitlin Smith was named NSW junior female surf life saver of the year.