HE'S been out of action for almost two years, but Kiama ironman Ali Day remains almost without rival after claiming all three opening rounds of the Nutri-Grain Ironman series over the weekend.
Time in the wilderness came after Day broke both wrists in a horror fall during a promo shoot, requiring surgery that threatened his career.
He gave absolutely no hint of it in a triumphant return that was capped by an almost leisurely stroll to the finish after opening up a 13-second break in the opening ski leg and extending in the swim.
It made the final board leg an opportunity to lap up the winning feeling after a long and arduous road back to the top of the sport.
"It's probably pretty easy to look back on now and and sort of be like, 'oh it wasn't that bad' but I know ... I was in obviously a really bad way over that summer period when the Ironman series was on," Day said.
"I was pretty depressed, to be honest, and I wasn't probably a very good person to sort of be around. Obviously I had some really hard days there, some really dark times, but I was lucky enough to have some really good people around me.
"I have had over 600 days to really reflect and improve areas that were weaknesses for me and work on my strengths as well.
"It was a mindset battle in the last race - you get to the third race and everyone is hurting a bit.
"I was lucky, I was at the front of the first two races so I could slow down a bit and conserve some energy.
"I am really proud of the way I have handled the last three days, but it's not over yet, we're only halfway through.
"It definitely is a challenging series, I have never felt like this before and I am looking forward to getting back on the beach again in a couple of weeks."
What made the victory even sweeter was crossing the line to wife Kel and newborn son Danny.
"Dads that I train with have said you get dad strength so hopefully that is rubbing off with me," said Day.
"It's a really good distraction and Kel's been amazing, just being able to let me go out and do what I get to do. She's realised how badly it hurt me last year sitting out and how much I want to do well this year.
"I just think it's so selfless of her to put her goals aside and then let me go after mine.
"I've promised her I'll do it for a couple years and then we can get away from the beach and go on holiday at this time of the year."
Despite winning all three opening rounds, young-guns' Jy Timperly, Jackson Borgand Joe Collins' dominance of the minor places leaves them within reach of toppling Day for the overall crown when the final three rounds take place over three days from February 26.
'The pressure is on and there is a target on my back, everyone is looking to knock me off," Day said.
"The whole reason I do this sport is I love it but want to be challenged as well and there are some really good young guys coming through."
While Surfers Paradise's Day sits on 60 points after the weekend, fellow Warilla-Barrack Point junior Hayden White is 15th with 14 points, after finishing 15th, 16th and 14th respectively through the three races.
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