Joe Collins’ dreams came true on the weekend.
And it wasn’t just the cracking Christchurch weather.
The kid who left New Zealand to chase his sporting dreams returned home an Ironman as he claimed his first Open national title at the New Zealand Surf Lifesaving Championships.
The 22-year-old last competed in his home country in the U19s before following in the footsteps of fellow Kiwi Bondy Cory Taylor and relocating to the Gold Coast.
“I left NZ as an U19s competitor and because there was a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, this was my first Open NZ titles,” he said.
“It was the initial reason I moved here. I always wanted to be the best Ironman in NZ and I saw the Gold Coast as the best training environment.’’
But in the chilly waters of the South Island it was Taylor, the 2022 World Champion, who was chasing his former protégé.
“I took the title off an ex-Bondie which was cool,” he said.
“He was very gracious, we are at the same club, he’s been a great supporter of mine and he is like an older brother to me.
“And although he wanted to win, I think he was happy it was me taking his title.’’
The 22-year-old hasn’t looked back since moving to the Gold Coast and enrolling at Bond University.
He has almost completed a Commerce degree and will start work with local accountancy firm Simmons Partnership in June.
And he is becoming one of the premier Ironmen in Australia with a top-three finish in this year’s Nutri Grain Series to go with his third place in the Coolangatta Gold.
“New Zealand isn’t conducive to training all year round,’’ he said.
“The Gold Coast is really the pinnacle for the sport of Ironman racing with the weather and surf conditions we get. I guess also getting to do so many more races, it sharpens your race brain.
“They (in NZ) get to race three or four times a year, here we race almost every week in summer, so you probably get a tactical advantage also.
“I have improved in leaps and bounds since coming to Australia.’’
His next assignment is due in Perth next month at the Aussie Titles.
He admits questioning whether a bid to realise his lifelong ambition was the best preparation.
“It is pretty tough stuff, you weigh up the options and there were a couple of NZ Ironmen who didn’t go back because they preferred to do a harder training block here in the lead-up to the Aussies,” he said.
“But I wanted to go, I had always wanted to win an NZ title and I think winning another race is great preparation.’’
Even his concerns about the weather proved to be unfounded.
“I can’t believe how nice it was,” he said.
“I definitely didn’t go in the water when I didn’t have too as it was still cold for me having acclimatised to our weather up here now.
“But it was awesome, I went there for my first nationals about six years ago and it was 6 degrees, it was freezing in and out of the water.’’
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