Natasha Hind rewrote the record books as the New Zealand surf life saving team powered into a potentially world championship winning position in Adelaide last night.
Needing to build an impregnable buffer over six-time defending champions Australia by the end of the pool-based events, the Kiwis take to the beach at Glenelg with an 81-point lead over their rivals with two days of competition remaining.
The advantage is greater than the team anticipated and is the biggest lead they have ever held over Australia at the midway point of the championship, raising the prospect of New Zealand claiming the title for the first time since 1998.
Italy lead the Kiwis by 63 points after a predictably strong performance at the South Australian Aquatic Centre but the Europeans are expected to struggle in the ocean and beach component, where the trans-Tasman rivals traditionally dominate.
Hind, who swam at the London Olympics, highlighted a superb effort to extend New Zealand's lead over the fourth-placed hosts.
The 23-year-old smashed the world record in the 200-metres super life saver competition by two seconds - and the national record by almost 10secs - with a time of 2min 24.55secs, an effort which relegated previous record holder Miranda Bell (Australia) to the minor placings.
"After the Olympics and when I was setting some goals for here, I did have that 200m super lifesaver record in the back of my mind," Hind said.
"I knew it was achievable so I set about doing everything I could to get over here in the best possible shape."
Hind also claimed gold in the 50m manikin carry, breaking the national record in the process with a time of 36.31secs.
Crucially in both events the second New Zealander to contribute to the points haul were close to Hind.
Laura Quilter picked up bronze in the 50m carry and Sam Lee was fourth in the 200m super lifesaver.
Hind believed her Olympic experience was the catalyst for her stellar performance.
"After the Olympics, I went traveling and came back with two months to get in shape. Those were probably the hardest two months of training I've ever done."New Zealand team captain Andy McMillan and fellow Olympic relay swimmer Steve Kent had another gruelling day, shouldering the majority of the load for the Kiwi men.
Kent was a gutsy fourth in the 200m super lifesaver and won the B-final of the 100m manikin carry, while McMillan won the B-final of the 200m super lifesaver and was eighth in the A-final of the 50m manikin carry.
The pair combined with Max Beattie and Steve Ferguson to finish fifth in the 4x50m medley relay.
The pressure is now applied on New Zealand's beach specialists with Australia's ranks including world ironman champions Shannon Eckstein and Kristyl Smith.
Ominously Australia has trailed New Zealand at the last two world championships out of the pool, only to turn it around on the beach and romp home.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand under-20 team trails their Australian rivals after the pool component, despite brilliant performances from Natalie Peat and Chris Dawson.
Peat won the 200m super lifesaver in a slick time of 2min30.73secs, heading home teammate Carina Doyle; Australian Rachelle King was third.
Dawson snared gold in the 100m manikin carry and then anchored the 4x50m medley relay team featuring an all-Gisborne line-up with Cory Taylor, Toby Harris and Ben Quilter.
Open: Italy 418, New Zealand 355, Germany 314, Australia 274, France 257, Netherlands 255, China 161, Canada 144, Belgium 143, Spain 123.
Under-20: Australia 490, New Zealand 450, Spain 433, Canada 295, Japan 268, Hong Kong 159, USA 104, Ireland 68, Iran 44, Sri Lanka 40.
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