ENCOURAGING words from his childhood coach helped Mark Plant become the first Port Fairy Surf Lifesaving Club member to win an individual gold in the water at the national championships.
Plant yesterday etched his name into the club’s record books when he triumphed in the men’s 35-39 year-old ski race on the opening day of competition at Scarborough Beach, Perth.
The 38-year-old, who moved from Anglesea to Port Fairy almost seven years ago, revealed a quiet word from his long-time mentor Chris Porter had worked.
Porter, who started coaching him at 13, is in Perth with his Anglesea club, but sought out Plant in the minutes before his gold medal winning performance.
“He said ‘you can do really well if you have a good start and just relax and don’t overdo it’,” Plant said.
“I was relaxed and it paid off.”
Plant said he had stayed in touch with Porter despite moving to Port Fairy.
“Chris is the kind of guy who is always looking at what you can do to improve. He said to me after I won gold ‘what could you have done differently’.
“I looked at him thinking ‘you’re kidding’. But he’s just not looking at the end of that race, he’s looking at what I have to do on Thursday in the open race.”
Plant said he was “a bit annoyed” at finishing fifth in the board race leading up to the ski final and gave the ski event everything he had.
“I got a fantastic start, hit the first shore break and had a lead and took it from there. I won it by a wave.
“I’m stoked.” Plant said Port Fairy had previously won a gold medal at national level in first aid but believed he was the first to claim individual glory.
Plant, who is the junior development coach at Port Fairy, will contest the open board and ski on Thursday, where he will be up against athletes almost half his age.
“The open stuff is a bit of a fun thing for me. If I make it to the quarter-final Victoria will hear me from here.”
He said his focus was on six of the club’s rising stars in his role as their coach, deferring any celebrations until the end of the titles.
Under 19s Jake Hetherington, Isaac Martin and Daniel Murrihy open their campaigns tomorrow with Jake and Isaac teaming up in the double ski while the trio will contest the board and ski teams events. Under 15s Lachlan Murrihy and twins Blair and Tyler Hetherington will also be in action. The club’s boat crew hits the water today.
Nicole Dwyer was seventh in yesterday’s 35-39 women’s beach sprint, just ahead of Plant’s wife Ilona, who was ninth. They continue their bid for medals today.