Rotorua swimmer Kane Radford has prevailed in a thrilling State Le Grande Swim, the fourth round of the State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series.
Radford won by just one second over Auckland's Phillip Ryan, with Queensland's Josh Richardson third, another 13 seconds back.
The race was tight right from the start with all three swimmers in close proximity of each other, along with women's winner Melissa Gorman.
Radford eventually got his nose in front about 1km from the end, but Ryan almost swum him down as the pair closed in on the finish.
"It was definitely a hard race out there," Radford said.
"Phillip really pushed towards the end, but hey, when it's all on the line, you've got to give everything to win."
Radford had to dig deep in more ways the one. He competed with a painful shoulder injury, needing an injection yesterday, just to race.
The win sees him overtake Ryan at the top of the series standings and puts him in with an excellent chance of winning the overall series and the $20,000 grand prize.
Gorman's performance meantime, was remarkable. The double Olympian and two time Commonwealth Games medallist in the 800m freestyle showed her class beating the entire field, other than Radford and Ryan.
Her performance sent a big message to New Zealand's best Charlotte Webby and Cara Baker.
"It's good to let them know that I'm here and that they don't have the series all to themselves anymore," Gorman said.
"But you know what, they're great swimmers and they have just as much a chance of winning as I do," she said.
To be eligible for the $20,000, each swimmer must compete in a minimum of three of the six races.
One hundred points is awarded to each race winner, with double points on offer in the final round, the State King of the Bays in April. Just the top three performances from each swimmer count in the standings.
The bad news for Webby and Baker is that Gorman is set to compete in the last two rounds.
"$20,000 is a lot of money. We'll have to see how things pan out, but at this stage, I'm definitely coming back," Gorman said.
The next race in the series is the State Sand to Surf in Mount Maunganui on March 16. The final race, the State King of the Bays in Takapuna, is on April 6.
2013 State Le Grande Swim Results:
1.Kane Radford (Rotorua)28:10
2.Phillip Ryan (Auckland)28:11+0:01
3.Josh Richardson (Queensland)28:24+0:14
1.Melissa Gorman (Queensland)28:22
2.Charlotte Webby (New Plymouth)29:53+1:31
3.Grace Sommerville (Ashburton)33:09+4:47
1.Kane Radford (Rotorua)298.28
2.Phillip Ryan (Auckland)296.53
3.Codie Grimsey (Queensland)197.89
4.Ben Campbell-MacDonald (Wellington)195.60
1.Charlotte Webby (New Plymouth)299.57
2.Cara Baker (Auckland)198.28
3.Kirsty Wannan (Auckland)192.74
4.Courtney Carson (Hutt Valley)190.19