New Zealand's surf lifesaving stars finished in fine form at the Nutri Grain Series over the weekend to cap off a successful series for the trio.
Omanu's Max Beattie, Midway's Cory Taylor and Mairangi Bay's Danielle McKenzie created history when they qualified for the prestigious series back in September. Never before has New Zealand had three athletes taking part in the same series.
The final standings after six rounds saw Danielle finish in 13th place and in the men's Max finished in 11th with Cory in 17th.
Danielle, 21, who battled a foot injury towards the end of the series, is no stranger to the event. She qualified and took part last year, also finishing in thirteenth.
"The series is just a huge experience in itself. It's a whole new level of racing and I would definitely say it's some of the hardest racing I've done," she says.
Danielle is one of the strongest board and ski paddlers in Australia and New Zealand and she is currently leading the ski and board rounds in the Summer of Surf series, which she says helped with her confidence leading into the Nutri Grain Series.
She says although she wasn't happy with some of her performances, there were many positives to take away from the experience. "My best placing was a ninth in Round Two at Coolum. In every race, my favourite leg is the ski leg; for me, it's my weapon and I back my wave skills on it."
While she has made some great friends out of her fellow contestants, she says when it's race time and the gun goes off, they're all racing for themselves and their families. "It was huge for me to have many family, friends and coaches cheering for me. Having them backing you on the beach just makes every race more special."
For Max and Cory, it was their first time taking part in the renowned event.
"Being part of the series was amazing. It sounds cheesy, but it was a dream come true, says 23 year-old Max. "I learnt a lot and proved to myself that I could mix it up with the big boys."
Max says he's fairly satisfied with coming eleventh overall. "I
was sitting in sixth after the first three rounds. It took a few
missed chances and some unlucky waves and I was back outside the
top ten. But, I'm still happy with the way I raced," he says.
If he was to pick one standout moment from the series, it was the final race in Round Two. "Standing next to one of your idols (Shannon Eckstein) in an eliminator was a really cool moment," he says.
For 22 year-old Cory the series was an experience he'll never forget. "I felt honoured to be able to race against the world's best in our sport. It all went by pretty fast to be honest; it only feels like yesterday I had qualified and now it's all over."
Cory says he set some goals and was close to achieving them in the first rounds but feels he wasn't at the level, skilfully or physically, that he needed to be.
"But it was much more about gaining experience and learning from my mistakes this first time around. My main learning point is the fact you cannot make a mistake at this level of competition. Everybody is too good and it makes the race very difficult to win if you make an error."
Some of the standout moments for Cory were seeing the awe on kids' faces every time he ran out of the tent. "It felt surreal what I had achieved, to then get to the line, turn around and just take in all the crowd. It was something so special," he says.
New Zealand team coach Jason Pocock says the series brought some challenges for the three athletes, but overall, he's very happy with their performances.
"It's a huge achievement to make this series and to have three Kiwis in the same series is a testament to the quality of athletes coming through the ranks," he says.
For more information, and final point scores, visit www.nutrigrainironman.com.au/en_AU/home.html
Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Specialist,
Phone 09 303 9335 or 0276 488 823