FORMER Victoria Park High pupil Kyle Buckingham achieved a long-cherished dream when he was crowned the amateur champion in the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii, on Saturday.
Buckingham, 29, who qualified for the 30-34 age- group, not only won his division, he was the first amateur home in all the age-groups. The Cape Town-based triathlete also set a world amateur record of eight hours, 37 minutes and 26 seconds.
No wonder he was overwhelmed by the achievement as a message on his Facebook page indicated.
"Wow I truly don't know what to say, it still feels like I'm dreaming," Buckingham posted. "I had an absolute cracker of a race today which I worked my butt off for – am AMATEUR WORLD CHAMP IN A NEW RECORD, in 8;37hr – wow, that sounds amazing. Trust me the last 10km of that run I have never dug so deep in my life."
Buckingham went on to pay tribute to South African Ironman legend Raynard Tissink, who has turned his focus to coaching.
"Thank you to my wonderful coach Raynard Tissink, you are amazing and my sponsors Velocity Sports Lab and Trevor McLean-Anderson, GU energy and 2 XU," Buckingham said. "And to all my family and friends for all the messages and support, and to my beautiful fiancee, Lauren Hill, for being there with me every step of the way."
Last month, Buckingham won his age-group in the 70.3 world champs in Las Vegas and Saturday's triumph in Kona put the finishing touches to an amateur career as he plans to turn professional next year.
His mother, Carrie Wessels, who lives in PE, said Buckingham had started his Ironman career with the aim of being a world champion one day.
"We as a family are overjoyed and we are all still in shock," she said yesterday. "Kona is 12 hours behind [South Africa] so we started to watch from 6pm on Saturday evening through the night to hear his finish just before 4am this morning [Sunday]. We have not had much sleep at all.
"When he started out in 2009 his dream was to be a world champion one day – well, four years later he was crowned world amateur 70.3 champ in Vegas in September and now has broken the record at the world Ironman champs in Kona."
Another Ironman athlete with strong PE links, James Cunnama, finished fourth in 8:21:46, nine minutes behind Belgian winner Frederik van Lierde (8:12:29). The women's race was won by Mirinda Carfrae of Australia in 8:52:14.