FORMER Kiama ironman Ali Day says he can "die a happy man" after taking out the Coolangatta Gold last week.
Following the withdrawal of last year's winner, Caine Eckstein, Day was the favourite to win the 45-kilometre event despite it being his first time.
Although he won comfortably in a time of three hours, 47 minutes and 25 seconds, Day said he felt the pressure of being the favourite.
"The sport's really big up here so there was quite a bit of media attention," he said. "Seeing the odds and everything, it did play on my mind."
Day said the support of his family and coach Michael King helped him deal with the expectation for the October 14 event.
"My mum was up here and my coach was just telling me to think about the race and not the result," the 22-year-old said.
"He [King] was telling me to be confident in the 22 weeks of training we've done and as soon as I started the nerves settled."
Day joins a list of Coolangatta Gold winners that includes legendary names like Eckstein, Zane Holmes and Guy Leech, something he said would take a while to sink in.
"That's probably the most special thing about it," Day said.
"I looked at the trophy the other day and I was shocked. It's something you work so hard for and to see your name on there with blokes like that is amazing.
"I'm just ecstatic, I never really thought I'd win but if I was going to win one of the big three, I'd always choose the Gold."
Day said he would take confidence into this year's Ironman Series and will look to go one better than his second place finish last year.
"I suppose with Eckstein out there's a bit of added pressure," he said. "I'm a lot more mature both physically and mentally with another year under my belt though."
Day won't be taking anything for granted when the series begins in December. "I've still got a lot to learn about the sport and there's a lot of hungry blokes out there," he said.