Thomas earns Jim Wall in front of hometown, Gilling makes it a dynasty

January 2, 2022 BY

Matt Gilling after crossing the finish line to win his third Surf Coast Times Jim Wall Iron Man. Photos: MICHAEL CHAMBERS

LOCAL surf athlete Sophie Thomas has stormed home to take her first win in front of her home crowd, while Matt Gilling made his third trip to the podium in this year’s 2022 Surf Coast Times Jim Wall Iron Man event.

Some light drizzle in the early hours of Sunday morning was the only downside of the 61st edition of the day at Torquay SLSC.

The Open Male and Female Surf races begun the day at 9am sharp with club tents and spectators from all over the state lining Torquay Surf Beach in a day filled with board, ski and swim event from under 13s and 15s to the Jim Wall athletes.

To commence the Jim Wall events, the men’s field was cut down to 17 just after 10:30am where Matt Gilling showed promising signs in the first eliminator of the men’s category, taking the first of three races.

Shortly after, the women began their eliminators with Torquay representative Sophie Thomas starting her Iron Man efforts off on the right foot, winning the race on the back of a strong swim leg.

Both fields were then reduced to 10 at the conclusion of the second round of eliminators for both men and women.

In the first final, Thomas solidified a decent lead on the way into the arch thanks to her endurance and had only a clear line of sight as she earned her first Jim Wall Iron Man event win.

“It was really exciting to win,” Thomas said.

“I’ve watched this race go around so many times and been in it too, but I’m absolutely stoked to get my name on the lines with Jim Wall.”

Jim Wall Iron Man winner Sophie Thomas of Torquay (middle) on the podium next to runner-up Grace Harris of Burleigh Heads and third placed Mia Cook of Warrnambool.

As Gilling had done all day, the swim was his forte. Putting a few body lengths between himself and fellow competitor Archie Vernon and then catching the first wave in, it was a comfortable third Jim Wall win for the Burleigh Heads representative.

“Getting the third win was awesome,” said Gilling.

“The third in four years is nice too after 2019 and 2021, but this one was super tough with the new format and shorter races.

“Doing three Jim Wall races made it super tough to back it up, so I used the first two races to build a bit of confidence and swam home strong on the third, which I was able to lean on a bit.”

Second and third in the women’s Jim Wall was Grace Harris of Burleigh Heads and Mia Cook of Warrnambool. In the men’s, it was Archie Vernon of Surfers Paradise finishing second and Jesse Coulson rounding out third.

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