Kent digs in at world surf lifesaving champs

19:53, Sep 22 2014
Steve Kent
ALL SMILES: New Zealand surf lifesaver Steve Kent with the world championship trophy.

Hobbling and hurting, invalided out of the final day of the world surf lifesaving championships in France, all Steve Kent could hope was that the rest of his New Zealand team would follow his lead and fight until the end.

He needn't have worried. Watched by their injured team-mate, New Zealand held off a rampant Australian charge to win, owing much to the sort of fight Kent typified.

Launching himself into the water at La Grande-Motte Beach for the tube rescue on the penultimate day, the 26-year-old Olympic swimmer felt his kneecap pop. Having dislocated it twice before, he knew exactly what it was - though he also had no intention of stopping, providing echoes of Red Conway amputating a finger to play for the All Blacks and Wayne Shelford's infamous scrotum tear against France in 1986.

"I hadn't got up to full speed in the heats and semis but felt it go about 20 metres into the wade going out in the final," Kent said.

"It was still quite shallow so I had to stop running and start duck-diving off one leg straight away, which lost me a lot of ground, but I knew we couldn't afford a DNF at that stage and all thoughts were on carrying on for the team. There was no way I was stopping, there was just too much on the line."

The tube rescue involves one person swimming out to a buoy, putting their hand up and getting "rescued" by another swimmer - only this time there was an element of rescue reality in team captain Andy McMillan's second swim. Kent, clipped into a rescue tube, still managed to kick all the way back in to the beach where New Zealand collected a valuable bronze.

"That was definitely the hardest bronze I've ever won but also one of the sweetest, especially as the guys held on to win today," Kent said.

"I'm just incredibly proud to represent my country and help bring back the trophy once again."

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