Australia's Olympians showed their class in winning the Sand To Surf ocean swimming race in Mount Maunganui this morning.
Ky Hurst won the men's race, beating fellow Queenslander Josh Richardson by five seconds, with Auckland's Phillip Ryan in third. The women's race was far more decisive, with Australia's Melissa Gorman once again too good for New Zealand's best Cara Baker and Charlotte Webby.
Hurst got off to a flyer in the men's race, which was the fifth round of the State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series, opting for a different line to the rest of the field.
"It meant I ended up having a nice little buffer, which allowed me to relax into a good rhythm through the middle stages," Hurst said.
It was far from a one horse race, however, with the 19-year-old Richardson catching Hurst at the halfway point of the 2.6km journey.
"Josh is one of the best open water swimmers in the world and has a huge future," Hurst said, "so it was inevitable that he was going to catch me. At the end I was hoping we'd both catch a wave and body surf in, but it wasn't to be.
"We got to the last can and it was all on. We had to give it everything we had. I just happened to get a nice couple of swells towards the end."
Although both Hurst and Gorman are nearly 100 points behind the leaders in the overall series standings, their wins today mean they are now strong contenders to claim the overall series and the $20,000 grand prize. Double points (200) are on offer in the final round, the King of the Bays on Auckland's North Shore on April 6, and few would bet against Hurst and Gorman coming close to pocketing the cash.
"$20,000 is a lot of money and it'll definitely help me out a lot back home, with my training and travel plans," Gorman said. "I'd love to have a good race in Auckland just like everyone, so it should be a cracker."