Andy McMillan led New Zealand to victory in Adelaide
yesterday as the country won its first surf lifesaving
championships in 14 years.
The 27-year-old Otago swimmer, a London Olympian earlier in
the year, jubilantly cheered home his team on Glenelg Beach
as they beat six-time defending champions Australia on their
New Zealand finished the four-day teams event with 844
points, with Australia 79 points adrift on 765. Crucial to
the Kiwis' effort was the 81-point lead they established in
two days in the pool, where McMillan and fellow Olympian
Steve Kent thrashed themselves to a standstill, sacrificing
their individual ambitions for the sake of the team.
"It was hard for a start because we both wanted to get world
titles and world records as well but we had to take a step
back and think about the team rather than ourselves,"
"It was an easy choice to make in the end and I'm so glad we
decided to go with that. We knew we'd have a pretty tough
schedule and we'd have a lot of events to get through but we
prepared ourselves for that and it paid dividends."
Nursing a torn cartilage in his knee, suffered a month ago
during training, McMillan battled through gamely and he and
Kent even had something left on the beach, finally capturing
gold in the tube rescue on the final day.
It was only the second gold won by the Kiwi men, while the
six-strong female contingent picked up an incredible eight
golds, led by Tash Hind's four and three to Sam Lee.
Needing a miracle on the final day and sitting 91 points
adrift in second place, Australian star Shannon Eckstein made
a bold statement by claiming the surf race and clean-sweeping
the men's board race with Hugh Dougherty.
Kevin Morrison (third) and Max Beattie (fourth) limited the
damage in the board race, however, before 19-year-old Devon
Halligan tore up the ski race with a remarkable display. Her
effort was magnified by teammate 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."
Chanel Hickman added to the lustre with a consummate beach
flags win, Beattie underlined his potential by finishing
second behind Eckstein in the ironman while the New Zealand
women's taplin team produced the final flourish by winning
the last event of the championships.
McMillan believed 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.
"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."