KIAMA’S Ali Day surged to the top of the Ironman standings at North Wollongong Beach on Saturday, despite being unable to chase down long-time rival Kendrick Louis in the final.
Louis stole the show in a dramatic finish to the eliminator event, but Day’s second placing ensured he would move to first after Kurrawa’s Matt Poole was knocked out in the second round.
It was a brilliant day for the South Coast contingent, with Warilla’s Ben Carberry finishing third in the Ironman final, second in the swim race and also taking out the ski.
Nowra-Culburra’s Kirsty Higgison was also in sizzling form, with a fourth place finish in the Ironwoman race.
In the last race for the year – with three rounds left in the Ocean6 series to come in 2019 – it was fitting for Day to be on top overall, having secured the world title in Adelaide last week and a record sixth Coolangatta Gold in October.
“I can’t ask for any more,” Day said.
“I was just a couple of ski lengths off Kendrick and couldn’t catch him, we’ve been racing against each other for more than a decade and I could see he was really hungry to win out there.
“I struggled a bit especially early on. Mentally I was fine, I was making good decisions, but just physically it took me a while to get going.
“It’s such a pinch yourself moment to be competing back near home, where I spent a lot of time racing as a kid.”
Carberry had made the most of his day after an early scare, winning a six-man sprint in the preliminary rounds to snatch the last remaining spot for the next eliminator.
Soon after crossing the line behind Louis and Day, the result sent the Warilla-Barrack Point talent surging into fifth overall in the Ironman series and he returned to the water soon after to power to victory in the ski race.
“It was tough,” he said.
“The conditions were ok, but there was a rip in the middle and it made it pretty tactical, depending where you were drawn to start.”
Like Day and Carberry, Higgison has spent many summers treading the North Wollongong sand.
It was her first time to return at an elite level, having missed last year’s race because of a back injury. So it was a highlight of her career to finish fourth in the final.
“It was so special, very surreal,” she said.
“Just to have your family and friends up here, I’ve being doing the Sydney Water series since the age of 11, so it was just like they did when I was racing as a kid.
“I just wanted to make the final, and it was great to finish fourth.
“I felt really strong, I had a great swim leg.”
The next round, the fourth of six in the series, is held at Currumbin on January 11-12.