Sydney ironman spoils Shannon Eckstein farewell
AN ironman chasing his first major win of the season thwarted surf legend Shannon Eckstein's bid for a fairytale finish to his ironman career with Sydney's Max Brooks claiming a maiden Australian crown on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
Eckstein, racing with an ankle injury which has hindered his entire season, growled in frustration when he finished second to the Newport competitor in a race he had hoped would deliver him a ninth Australian iron crown.
The 35-year-old admitted luck deserted him in his final race when he spun 360 degrees on his ski and then tumbled from his board in heavy, pounding surf before being beaten by Brooks in a rush for the finish line.
"I never gave up though,'' said the man who leaves elite racing as arguably the greatest ironman exponent and boasting 42 Australian titles in various events along with eight Nutri-Grain series crowns.
Eckstein was given a guard of honour by ironwoman and ironmen before his last race and a roar of applause from the thousands of spectator who went to Broadbeach to watch the surf greats final ironman.
Brooks, whose clubmate Kendrick Louis won the Australian title last year, said he felt a little guilty about spoiling the Eckstein's party.
"I don't feel a little bad but you have to take your opportunities when you can,'' he said.
"I can't believe it I'm speechless, it's been a really tough season for me.
"I haven't got one result yet this season. This is as good as it gets. It feels like a bit of dream really.
"I've loved the sport since I was 10-years-old and he (Shannon) was always the one at the top of his game and to be able to race with him for the last four years, and then to be in his last ever two races, it means a lot. I'm really happy.''
One of Eckstein's fiercest and longest rivals, Zane Holmes, paid tribute to his old clubmate, saying he was the toughest man he had ever raced or trained against.
"We had a great healthy rivalry we trained together and pushed each other day in day out, for a number of years we were the only ones winning races, it was either him or me. That pushed both of us to another level,'' Holmes said.
"When I trained with him he was always at such a high level he never had a bad session.
"He didn't have a weakness and still doesn't, I just knew when I put my foot on the line he was the only guy I had to beat.''
Olympians starred on the final day of the Australian surf lifesaving titles with Riley Fitzsimmons (Avoca) an emphatic winner of the men's surf ski.
Fitzsimmons, who combined with fellow Olympian Lachie Tame to win the doubles title a day earlier, rushed off after his win to handle for ironwoman girlfriend Georgia Miller who won her first Australian iron title.