Braden Currie shines in Coast to Coast win
Braden Currie has delivered a blistering mountain run performance to set him on the way to a second consecutive Coast to Coast men's Longest Day title.
The 27-year-old athlete, who now resides in Wanaka, surprised at last year's event, but was simply in a league of his own today.
Currie finished in a time of 11hrs, 18 mins, 37secs, which was 21 minutes clear of five-time champion Richard Ussher, who was forced to settle for second place.
It was a special day for the Currie family, with Braden's elder, brother, Glen finishing in third place in a time of 11.57.29.
There was plenty of pressure on Currie heading into the race about how he would deal with the expectation of defending his crown, but he was ice cool during the 243km race from Kumara Beach to Sumner Beach and never got flustered when the tempo was raised.
On a day where Coast to Coast founder Robin Judkins signed off his 32-year involvement as race director, it was the next generation of athletes who began to shine through. Jess Simson shone in the women's one-day individual event, winning the title in her first year doing the Longest Day. She had a winning time of 13hrs, 12min, 24sec, which was 14 minutes ahead of second placed Elina Ussher.
Last year, the 29-year-old Simson shattered the women's record in the two-day women's race and opted to test herself in the gruelling one-day race this time around.
Currie was outstanding in last year's mountain run, breaking away from his rivals, and again used that strategy to help set up his win today. He delivered a phenomenal time of 2hrs,49mins,56secs over the challenging 33km mountain run over Goat Pass to build a whopping 24 minute advantage entering the 67km kayak.
Ussher is a talented paddler but it was always going to be a difficult ask to peg back such a commanding deficit.
Currie was almost lost for words when he crossed the finish line in front of a noisy crowd and said it was a huge milestone to defend his title.
''I don't really believe it. I just had a really great day and nothing really went too wrong. I just felt good,'' he said.
Currie said his tactic at the start of the race was to dig it in during the mountain run and was delighted he had been to able to do so.
"I always try and put my most into that run and stretch it out and I just gave it to it and had a fantastic run. I felt fantastic off the run.''