Surf stars create more history in Mount Maunganui
New Zealand surf lifesaving stars Danielle McKenzie and Cory Taylor capped incredible national championship campaigns in Mount Maunganui, emphasising why they're among the best surf athletes on the planet.
Taylor (Midway) won his fourth New Zealand ironman title and added the run-swim-run on the final day of the TSB-sponsored championships, finishing with four golds in total.
His efforts paled in comparison to McKenzie, however, with the 24-year-old Mairangi Bay clubbie totally dominating the open women's division.
She finished with nine gold medals - one more than her historic performance last year - and became the first athlete in the 104-year history of the titles to win every individual open event on offer.
Her victory roll included streaking the ironwoman final, out-sprinting Omanu's Devon Halligan to win the board race, taking the ski race by 50m and capturing both the run-swim-run and surf race.
She added team golds in the double ski, mixed double ski, ski relay and the event-ending women's taplin.
"It's not so much about the medals - I'm really stoked with the two swim golds because I wouldn't call myself a swimmer," McKenzie, who toyed with the idea of remaining in Australia where she and Taylor compete on the professional series, says.
"I'm really glad that I did come back - there are still so many awesome competitors here and I've loved competing with them and it's really special to race in front of all my family and club members. They're the ones who've always been there for me and it's awesome to win with them."
It took her number of open women titles to 32 since winning her first as a precocious 17-year-old in the 2012 taplin and even left Black Fins teammate Taylor shaking his head.
"She's been unstoppable - her performances last weekend at the Queensland titles were unbelievable and she came here really well prepared and in really good shape and it showed because she won nearly every race she entered," Taylor says.
His own ironman performance was nearly as dominant, with Mairangi Bay's Paul Van Achterbergh second and Mount Maunganui's Hamish Miller third, clearing out in the middle ski leg and comfortably easing home in the swim.
"I was pretty nervous going in because it was such a short course, with a long run and the waves standing up nearly at the cans. I just wanted to get out on my own and find some clear space and thought the ski leg was the best place to do that."
Midway's Cory Taylor celebrates his fourth ironman title at the TSB national surf lifesaving championships in Mount Maunganui. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Taylor didn't have the perfect day on Sunday - he was leading the board race - still the only individual open men's race he hasn't won - when the pack caught up and Papamoa's Scott Cowdrey out-sprinted Mount Maunganui's Lincoln Waide for his first open title.
And the ski race went to Mairangi Bay's Mike Lee, taking a clean sweep of ski races for the weekend after earlier winning the double ski with Travis Mitchell and the mixed double with McKenzie.
He then helped Mairangi Bay to a memorable open men's taplin victory, with final swimmer George Hunter winning an epic sprint to the line from Mount Maunganui tyro Lochlainn O'Connor.
Elsewhere, Titahi Bay won the open women's long course surf boat final from Orewa and Piha, cementing a great day for the Wellington club after their men had done the same in both their long and short course finals.
Muriwai were second in the men's decider, with Piha again claiming third. Titahi Bay also won the surf boat relay. Orewa had earlier won the women's short-course final.
Mount Maunganui's overall dominance saw them win their seventh consecutive Allan Gardner Trophy, finishing 50 points clear of Mairangi Bay on 147 points.
It's also the 10th title in the club's history, breaking the record nine previously won by the Bay of Plenty club and Christchurch's South Brighton.