FORMER Shoalhaven surf lifesaving sweetheart Kirsty Higgison made her ironwoman debut last weekend in the final round of the Nutri-Grain Ironwoman Series at Coolum Beach.
Higgison, 20, moved to Mooloolabar on the Sunshine Coast at the start of 2013 to train under coach Michael King.
But just recently her dreams came true when she received the call-up to compete in the sixth and final round of the Nutri-Grain Ironwoman series after Bonnie Hancock withdrew with glandular fever.
“I was really surprised to get the call as I wasn’t too sure if they were going to get another person to jump in and take her spot,” Higgison said.
“But it was such an awesome feeling. Me and my family were jumping around the house,” she laughed.
“It has been one of my biggest goals for so long so for me to get that call and achieve that was unbelievable.”
Higgison had already competed in the Surf Ironwoman Qualifying Series (SIQS) last Saturday, taking home a second and sixth place, and as a result had a chance to get a taste of the rough conditions for her debut.
“There was quite sizable surf, which was really big, really messy and a howling onshore,” she said.
“But then I woke up on Sunday and the surf was even bigger again. I thought Saturday was bad, but Sunday was worse. They were even thinking of cancelling the ski event for the women, but they didn’t.”
The final round was an eliminator and there were supposed to be three races, eliminating a number of competitors each time.
Because of the conditions and time constraints there were only two races, with just the top 10 progressing to the final.
In what was a turbulent heat, Higgison was only a whisker away from qualifying during the swim.
But competition favourite Courtney Hancock caught a wave from right at the back of the pack to pip Higgison right at the last hurdle and take 10th place.
“It was pretty lucky for her because she ended up winning the series. If I had knocked her out it would have been a bit of an upset,” Higgison said.
“But to get the opportunity to compete just blew my mind. I had fun, it was a great experience and I was so glad I could be a part of it.”
Higginson is ranked eighth in the SIQS, with not much separating the top contenders.
The three highest placed athletes in the SIQS will gain entry into the Nutra-Grain series for next summer.
Higgison has just two competitions left in the season, state in two weeks’ time and Aussies to be held in Western Australia in April.
She said that if she does not qualify for the Nutri-Grain Ironwoman series through SIQS, she will aim to qualify through the trials held in August and September.
Higgison described her time in Queensland as unreal.
“It is just so good. Everyone has a great attitude and it’s great to be around like-minded people and a warmer climate,” she said.
“I just want to thank my friends and family from back home, all my coaches, and especially everyone from the Nowra/Culburra Surf Lifesaving Club. You learn so much growing up on the South Coast and it really has set me up for where I am now,” she said.