From the beach to babies and back, Alison O'Toole is the un- disputed running queen of the Australian sand.
Less than a month after the 2009 birth of her son Tighe, O'Toole won her fifth straight gold medal in the 2km beach run at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.
On Friday, the 38-year-old from City Beach, who went on to win eight straight, will try to win back the title she could not defend last year because she was pregnant with her now four-month-old daughter Shae.
"I was lucky the year Tighe was born that it was here (at Scarborough) and I was able to compete," O'Toole said yesterday.
"Being my first pregnancy and being five years younger, it was actually quite easy to do straight after. After this one, there's no way I could have done it so soon. It's actually quite different . . . when you're not breastfeeding, you're looking after the other one so you can't just go off for a run."
O'Toole, who was inducted into the Surf Life Saving WA Sporting Hall of Fame last year, has had to alternate training around parenting with husband James, who is also competing.
She said she was "terrified" of big waves in her teenage years and railed against her parents' wish for her to pursue surf life saving, especially when she had to be rescued from one of her first beach swims. But her persistence paid off in many ways other than simply counting gold medals.
"I think it's the best thing my parents ever got me into," she said. "It's a really healthy environment, a lot of Australia lives near the coastline and I think it's a great thing for your kids to be happy and confident in the surf."
The Aussies return to WA for the 11th time today, with more than 5000 competitors, including legends Grant Kenny, Trevor Hendy and Darren Mercer.
The State Government and the City of Stirling yesterday revealed a statue commissioned to honour the area's surf life saving history. Watch Over You was produced by Tony and Ben Jones.