When your mum is an Olympic Silver Medallist for Butterfly, it would seem natural for the daughter with a similar talent and affinity for water to follow in her footsteps. Kirsty Higgison did take up her mother Karen’s (nee Phillips) sport for a while when she was young. Trouble was, she didn’t like it. Instead she was drawn to Surf Lifesaving at her local Surf Lifesaving Club, Nowra-Culburra on the South Coast of NSW, where she discovered several Ironwoman competitors with the name Kirsty. It seemed fate that she join them in the sport.

“I kind of wish I had kept up swimming training for a while longer” said Kirsty ahead of the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships (The Aussies) to be held this year at North Kirra. “Swimming strength definitely gives you an advantage in Ironwoman events”.

She needn’t worry. Higgison has a dogged determination to win. She moved to the Sunshine Coast four years ago because Queensland had so much more to offer.

“I feel I did well because I really appreciate how great the facilities and coaches are here compared to NSW. Plus I am training alongside all these champions!” she says.

It paid off. Last year she came runner up in her first campaign in the professional series for her then club Noosa.

“I was so happy but I had all these people telling me I should have won. So instead of resting my body like I should have, I kept training hard. I ended up with pneumonia and felt depressed. I couldn’t get my motivation back. Then Trevor Hendy called out of the blue”.

Hendy had recently become president of Surfers Paradise SLSC, and asked Higgison to come down to the Gold Coast to train at the club and have a look around, with no pressure to enter events.

“I loved Surfers. It reminded me of my old club on the South Coast; a non-competitive, inclusive, welcoming, family atmosphere”.

There is also more support for female competitors than any other club. Hendy’s vision is for Surfers to have the most female competitors of any SLSC in the country.

A big hurdle is gaining sponsorship for women.

“I think it’s because until relatively recently, Ironman was a male-only sport” says Higgison. “The

Coolangatta Gold, for example, only allowed women to compete in the long course four or five years ago”.

Higgison hopes to be able to go into schools with other club members at Surfers SLSC to talk to girls about the sport.

“I want to target the 15 to 17 year age group because that’s the time girls are most likely to drop out of sport. So much emphasis is placed on how women and girls look in sport. Anyone can play sport; young, old, big, small, disabled, it doesn’t matter. Sports like mine help you be in the moment instead of thinking about all the negativity out there”.

The Aussies will be held 25 March to 2 April at North Kirra.

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