New Zealand’s best ironwomen will go head to head in a mid-season surf lifesaving clash this weekend.
Danielle McKenzie and Devon Halligan, fresh from competing on the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain professional series in Australia, are lining up in Sunday’s Omanu Day of Champions in Mount Maunganui, along with a number of national title-winners.
McKenzie finished 13th in her series debut, a spot ahead of fellow New Zealand representative Halligan, and is looking forward to testing her sublime fitness levels in the predicted 1.5m swells this weekend.
“I was hugely disappointed there was no testing surf in any of the six rounds, especially when I qualified in some heavy surf,” McKenzie said. “My ski and board legs have improved hugely in the surf since training in Australia and I’m feeling so much fitter since the first round in Western Australia. Being able to train with six of the other Kellogg’s girls every day has also helped me out massively and I’m very fortunate they have been so accepting and have helped me out with training and racing tips.”
The feature event of the Parmco-sponsored carnival at Omanu will be the Ian Porteous Memorial Ironman, a prestigious long-distance ironman on a distinctive M-shaped course, with three fast-paced finals – surf race, ski and board – leading into it.
With no age-group divisions, the concept aims to pit the best junior talent against their senior rivals in head-to-head racing. It gives the likes of Mount Maunganui teenagers Katie Wilson and Jess Miller and Omanu’s Ashley Cochrane the chance to race McKenzie and Halligan.
In the men’s ranks, Omanu’s two-time national ironman champion Max Beattie, who recently won the Mount Monster long-distance race, will pit himself against clubmate Ben Cochrane, Papamoa’s Ben Johnston and Mason Bryant and Mount’s Kane Sefton and Hamish Miller.
The Day of Champions also features $7000 in prizemoney, with $1000 each for the ironman and ironwoman winners, and provides the perfect lead-in into next week’s Eastern Region championships in Mount Maunganui.
The Ian Porteous Memorial Ironman trophy is named for the former Omanu clubbie of the same name, who died, aged just 44, the day before the club’s annual long-distance ironman race 19 years ago.
It prompted his good mate Denny Enright to establish a memorial race for the Mount College teacher, conservationist, family man and marathon runner.
Previous winners of the men’s title include a cluster of the best ironmen New Zealand has produced, including Aaron Jarman, Cory Hutchings, Mark Muir, Matt Sutton, Cory Taylor and Max Beattie.
This year’s competitors will be watched by the world’s best ironman, Australian champion Shannon Eckstein, who is holding Dolphin-sponsored clinics at the beach tomorrow and Saturday, with help from Halligan.
Eckstein equalled Trevor Hendy’s record of six Australian ironman titles last year and is a multiple world champion. He’ll be present at the Omanu Day of Champions, which starts at 8.30am on Sunday, as part of Dolphin’s sponsorship of the event.