There are times in sport when competition is transcended by the spirit that underpins it.

As Sukie Hammond cried tears of joy and heartache into husband Paul's shoulder on Scarborough beach yesterday afternoon, victory medals on the first day of the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships 2014 could hardly have seemed more irrelevant.

Mrs Hammond had just dived headlong into the Scarborough sand to win the 50-55 years category of the women's beach sprint by a margin that appeared to be little more than a breath.

She then made a beeline for her husband, who is also her coach, for an emotional embrace that celebrated her win and glared into his acute fight with prostate cancer.

It was a lingering hold filled with the unknown of just how many more times these types of moments would be shared between the couple, from Queenscliff in NSW.

Less than an hour later, Mr Hammond proudly bared a frame withered by his illness as he ran the first relay leg for teams totalling at least 230 years of age.

He joked that he could not hide behind the illness doctors predicted would end his life a month ago because the team needed his 69 years to make up the age requirements.

Even though he finished last in his leg and his team finished fourth, Mr Hammond's brave effort was that of a champion.

He later revealed he was a friend and Queenscliff clubmate of Tony Abbott, who is in Perth ahead of Saturday's Senate election.

But behind his resounding spirit was a lament that he had not acted against his prostate cancer before it was too late and he pleaded with other Australian men not to make the same mistake.

"I should have picked it up earlier, but I didn't do the tests because I didn't think it would happen to me . . . what a fool," Mr Hammond said, also explaining he had benefited from hormone treatment and almost every form of alternative therapy.

"When my kidneys stopped working six months ago, I could actually feel that I was dying. But when you've been very close to death like that, you realise that it's not really such a big deal.

"Now my inspiration is the people around me and the way they have supported me.

"Love is a commonly used word, but they actually support you with that love.

"That's the sort of thing you need when you're in pain and you've got no energy and all you can do is get from one day to the next."

Mr Hammond was competing yesterday with a teammate who had been a Queenscliff sand runner with him for the past 33 years.

He has also spent the past 17 years coaching the club's Masters runners.

He described the wake his Queenscliff club held for him late last year as a "hoot" before revealing how he had recently discussed his health battle with a compassionate Prime Minister.

He was adamant it was a more honest depiction of Mr Abbott, whose daughters he had coached at Queenscliff, than was usually seen in the scowling world of politics.

"A nicer bloke you couldn't meet," he said.

"He's honest, he's decent and he's a sportsman . . . one of nature's gentlemen."

My inspiration is the people around me and the way they have supported me." *Paul Hammond *

The West Australian

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