SMITH TO PRIORITISE PADDLING AFTER ANOTHER CONFIDENCE-BOOSTING WIN
The Shaw and Partners North Bondi Classic isn’t quite at the same scale as the World Championships, but its reward is just as profound for Jemma Smith.
The newly-crowned World Champion repeated her breakthrough result by edging out longtime sparring partner Danielle McKenzie in another classic battle between the two.
Just seconds separated them at the finish line of the 11 kilometre race from Watsons Bay to Bondi Beach, but like in Portugal, it was Smith who came out on top.
“It’s definitely a big confidence boost, especially going into the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week,” Smith says.
“Over the past couple of years Dani has been able to pull away in these kinds of conditions and i’ve been left a little behind.
“So to put together two races in such different conditions… it’s a big boost to my self-confidence.”
The Shaw and Partners North Bondi Classic assembled an exciting field of emerging female talent.
But at the front, it was a race in two – although Smith and McKenzie weren’t all too aware of it.
“We kind of picked different lines,” Smith explains.
“I went quite shallow and closer to the rocks and Dani must’ve gone wider, so I didn’t see her the whole race until the point at Bondi when she pulled up alongside me right on the same wave.
“I managed to hit the turning can just ahead of her, but she was on my tail coming into the beach.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh my god if a wave comes it’s going to be a sprint up the beach.’ But I managed to hold on and win by a couple of seconds.”
Hometown ironman Lily Finati finished in third, ahead of Jenaya Massie and Emily Doyle.
Cory Hill took out the men’s title ahead of Shannon Eckstein and Mitchell Trim, in an important result that you can read by clicking here.
For Smith, it’s now back to training for another jam-packed summer schedule.
Although 2022 will bring a big difference.
For the first time since 2016, Smith will not be competing in the Nutri-Grain Ironwoman Series.
It’s a stage that she burst onto as an 17 year-old, winning her first round just one year later while in the middle of her HSC exams.
The decision to step away isn’t one she takes lightly, but it is one she’s excited to be making.
“I haven’t really swam properly for the past two years and i’ve been riding on my craft legs,” she laughs.
“After the first COVID lockdowns in 2020, all of my Newport clubmates were swimming in the rock pools because the lap pools were closed, and I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s not for me.’
“I wanted to spend more time in the kayak leading into the next Olympic cycle and see how far I could take my training.
“I’ve always juggled so many different things, and swimming is a bit antagonistic to what you need to do to build your strength up for the kayak.
“I made the call to go that way and i’ve been enjoying it so far.”
That means there will be more time in the surfski as she chases a huge prize pool at the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week.
“I feel excited,” she says. “It was definitely a weird lead-in to Worlds Ocean Racing. I hadn’t sat in my ski for so long until three weeks beforehand, when I was then in it every day.
“Now being back at home and having a huge summer coming up, i’m looking forward to spending as much time in the ocean as I can to get familiar with it again and get ready for some great racing.”
She certainly has the motivation to do it, still receiving plenty of support after claiming her maiden ocean racing World Championship.
“It was so lovely. I had lots of messages while I was overseas… then coming back to Australia and getting back into my training environments, it’s been really nice to see everyone because it’s just as much their success as it is mine.
“They’ve all helped push me in training and my coaches have contributed to it, it’s been really awesome.”