Hawaiian Ironman invites athletes

A TRIO of Far North Coast athletes have earned invitations to the famed Hawaiian Ironman after outstanding performances at Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie at the weekend.

Luke Harrison, Lisa Skinner (both competing in their first ironman) and Damion Davis, all of the Ballina Triathlon Club, swam 3.8km, cycled 180km and ran 42km fast enough to book a spot on the grid at the world’s most famous ironman race.

Harrison, a solicitor by day, was the first amateur home in the event, beaten only by professionals into ninth place.

“I had a really good day, obviously,” Harrison said, blown away by his own performance.

The 32-year-old has been in the sport for less than two years and will jump at the chance to go to Hawaii.

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, people train all their lives to go to the Hawaiian Ironman,” he said.

It will be an expensive exercise with athletes having to cover all costs, but that isn’t going to stop him.

“I’ve gotta go,” he said.

Harrison got into the sport after watching the Byron Bay Triathlon one year – he entered the next.

“I went terribly in that race,” he said. “It took me a while to get going in the sport but I am glad that I stuck it out.”

Skinner, who has been competing for only two years herself, has a story just as amazing.

At 44, she placed second in her division, completing the course in 11 hours 14 minutes.

“It’s something that I never saw myself doing,” Skinner said of endurance racing.

And the mother of three fell into the sport only by chance.

“My middle son joined the cycle club and I was around the whole scene a bit so I decided to get a bike myself,” she said.

“I always liked running but I was keen to challenge myself, to discover how far I could push myself.”

And she has pushed herself all the way to the top with the invitation to Hawaii.

“It is the pinnacle of the sport worldwide,” she said.

“I didn’t know much about it before but I will now.

“Luke and I went down to Port Macquarie just testing the waters, wondering how we would go, and now we are going to Hawaii.”

Davis, who spends his days knocking blocks of wood together as a carpenter, finished eighth in the men’s 40-44 years division with a time of 9 hours 47 minutes.

After just 15 months in the sport he has qualified for Hawaii as well as the Half-Ironman World Championships in Florida.

Harrison, Skinner and Davis – all proud locals – finished well ahead of Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbot in the Port Macquarie race and will no doubt do the Far North Coast proud as they fly the flag in the tranquil Pacific islands of Hawaii.

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