Limping around more like a tin man than an Australian ironman legend, Grant Kenny proved in Perth this week that he still has the heart of a champion.
Kenny strained his right calf last week while training on the Sunshine Coast with 19-year-old son Jett. Hiding under a towel and jacket from a cutting Scarborough wind on Monday morning, he was forced to also ice his left calf after straining it while trying to protect the injured muscle on his other leg.
But he still turned back his WA clock 35 years to win the 50 to 54 years Masters ironman title. He said it gave him the chance to reflect on his first ever ironman victory, in a junior event at Trigg Island in 1979.
Kenny’s calf pain persisted today, but he also continued his golden haul, winning the double ski and ski relay as the Masters events of the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships concluded.
The four-time ironman champion said despite having to be carried from the beach in pain last week, he was rapt to be back competing in Perth … even though he turned 50 last year.
“It was never the plan (to still be competing),” Kenny said. “But the best part for me is coming here and seeing all the old faces you’ve been racing with for a long time.”
Kenny, who will also compete in open events tomorrow, said “The Aussies” had lost an edge because it had become so big and also because of rule changes to improve safety at the event. The inconsistent changes had been an “over-reaction” to three deaths in the past 18 years of competition and he called for a review.
He also gave an interesting insight into the difference of the WA surf compared to the east coast.
“From the beach, to the layman, it looks pretty straight-forward, but it is actually quite a complicated bit of water to race in,” he said.
“The bank breaks pretty hard and then you’ve got a backwash going out and the bank itself is quite shallow. So it makes it hard to get a run and punch out on the way out and then on the way home when you get onto something, it sucks you back into it.
“When you get down a wave, it’s quite difficult to hold even a relatively small one.”
Kenny became an Australian icon with a decade-long contract promoting breakfast brand Nutri-Grain. But he lamented, “I didn’t get paid a dollar for every one I ate, that’s for sure”.
His presence at the event also gave one WA Masters competitor a significant scalp when Trigg’s Shaun Rice slipped past him on the final wave in Monday’s 50-54 years single ski final.
Rice, a South African who moved to Perth a decade ago said he was delighted to have “got the shoot” to defeat the champ.