He's been dubbed the undisputed "Coolie king", and Ali Day is eager to extend that dominance at the iconic Ironman event this weekend.
The Coolangatta Gold is a premier competition on the Australian surf lifesaving calendar, signalling the unofficial start of the Nutri-Grain Ironman series. Held annually on the Gold Coast, the event's recent long course history has been dominated by Day.
The Kiama superstar has notched up eight Coolangatta victories and can take that tally up to nine when he competes on Sunday. However, Day - who is a four-time Ironman champion - admitted to the Mercury that the 2023 Gold could be his last.
"Everyone sees the winning side of it, but what I'm really proud of - and it blows my mind - is that I've lined up nine times for this race that's long and hard to train for," the 33-year-old said.
"But at the same time, it's all of the things that I really love. And I'm at the back end now, so this could be my last on Sunday. Even saying that now is probably the first time that I've said it out loud and thought about it, but it possibly could be.
"I'd obviously love to win, but it's going to be hard to win with younger guys coming through and other people have more experience now. But I just want to enjoy it, I know that sounds a cliche, but that's how I am at the moment."
While Day's Coolangatta long-course record is unmatched, many people might not his first Gold experience over a decade ago was far from ideal.
A then 18-year-old Day took on the short course and, in his own words, "failed miserably".
"I wasn't cocky, I didn't think I was going to win that day, but I had a feeling that I'd do really well. But obviously that day, I failed. And it took a couple of years to get my confidence back up and do it again," he said.
"But I had that belief from a really young age that I was suited to long-distance Ironman racing, rather than the short course stuff. But I loved the history and learning about the past (Gold) winners - particularly Rhys Drury and Darren Mercer who were from the Illawarra. And my past coach Michael King had won the race before.
"But I always had the belief and passion for the race, and I thought I had that ability to potentially win it one day. So I failed in the under-19s and came back and won the opens, which was pretty cool."
After notching up that first Coolie win in 2012, Day has never looked back, returning to claim victories in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021 and last year.
It's an incredible list of achievements that the Warilla-Barrack Point Surf Life Saving Club junior doesn't take for granted.
"It's a bit scary because every time, you don't know when it's going to be your last. It's the uncertainty of sport, and that's what everybody loves," Day said.
"I've seen so many stories like this where people eventually lose one, or they keep winning. But I feel good and I'm excited, and I'm happy with the uncertainty. I'm pretty calm with that sort of stuff."
This weekend's Coolangatta Gold will also serve as a pivotal moment in Day's preparation for the upcoming Nutri-Grain Ironman series, which kicks off in December.
The veteran said his body "felt really good" ahead of the gruelling competition.
"I'm not saying 33 is old, but it's the oldest in our sport now - which is crazy to think that I'm now at that stage of my career," Day said.
"I've been doing a lot of ski paddling, board paddling and swimming, and a lot more physio-based pilates, weights and things like that for longevity. But I'm eating really well and I'm in a happy place as well, so I just want to keep working as hard as I can and win as many races that I can with the time that I've got left."
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