The New Zealand surf lifesaving team accomplished the
unthinkable today, staging a raid in the heart of the sport
and sailing home with the world title.
Australian spectators and officials at Rescue 2012 were left
slack-jawed and incredulous.
The hosts' team, packed full of superstar iron men and woman,
were left with the unmistakable gritty taste of sand kicked
in their faces.
Not since 1998 has a Kiwi team lifted the Alan B Whelpton
On that occasion in Auckland, the Aussies famously neglected
to bring the trophy with them and had to get it couriered
over on the last day.
This time, there was no such hiccup. The meticulously
prepared New Zealand, bolstered by Olympic swimmers Andy
McMillan, Steve Kent and Natasha Hind and kayaker Steve
Ferguson, opened up a big lead in the two days of pool
competition and, against all predictions, maintained it over
two days on Glenelg Beach.
The trophy was as good as theirs when they turned up on the
final day and the final gap was yawning, with New Zealand
finishing with 844 points to Australia's 765.
Along the way, they unearthed a couple of new stars in
19-year-old Devon Halligan, who smashed a quality field to
win the women's ski race today and featured strongly in a
heavy program in the water, and gutsy ironman Max Beattie.
New Zealand captain McMillan couldn't suppress his utter
jubilation, having battled a knee injury throughout the
buildup and having swum himself delirious in the pool.
"The Australians are like big brothers to us and a lot of the
team train at Aussie clubs alongside these superstars,"
"Beating them on their home beach is one thing but we
absolutely smashed them and that is an incredible feeling. We
came here with a mission and we achieved it and the whole
team is jumping out of their skins. This feeling will stay
with us for the rest of our lives."
Needing a miracle on the final day, 91 points adrift in
second place, Australian star Shannon Eckstein thought he'd
made a bold statement by claiming the surf race and
clean-sweeping the men's board race with Hugh Dougherty.
Kevin Morrison (third) and Beattie (fourth) limited the
damage in the board race, however, before Halligan tore up
the ski race with a remarkable display in South Australia.
Her effort was magnified by team-mate Nikki Cox, who snuck
through for second, leaving Australian ironwomen stars
Kristyl Smith and Commonwealth Games swimming gold medalist
Rebecca Creedy in their wakes.
"I couldn't have asked for anything better than to turn
around on the line and see Nikki come through right behind
me," Halligan said. "It was really tough out there because it
was so flat and there was only a little bit of wind chop and
I could see them coming in my peripheral vision but managed
to hang on."
Minutes later, McMillan and Kent delivered another hefty nail
in the Aussie coffin, powering out in the tube rescue, with
Morrison and Ferguson assisting in the drag up the beach.
Australia could only finish third behind France.
"Macca gave us a stern speech this morning and everything
just fell into place throughout the day," vice-captain
"We couldn't seem to put a foot wrong, or when we did,
someone was there to lift us back up again. We've just been
riding off each others' success. Every time we'd see the
girls win or one of the guys do something awesome, the whole
team just lifted again and it was pretty inspiring to be
Beattie underlined his potential by finishing second behind
Eckstein in the ironman while Halligan, after a heavy
schedule, finished fourth in the ironwoman.
The New Zealand women's taplin team finished in style,
winning the last event of the championships.
McMillan believes the seeds of their success were sown long
before the team reached Adelaide.
"It's been a huge campaign from our support staff, who have
planned for this for many months, if not years. We got the
belief in the squad early on that we could pull it off and
that has just grown the longer we've been together."