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TIM Ellison thought his golden days were behind him.
But yesterday, the 44-year-old Territorian defied time and his own wildest expectations to break through and claim top honours in the Arafura Games men’s triathlon event at Lake Alexander.
Ellison staved off the desperate last-gasp attempt by Tasmania’s Gavin Wickham to claim the hosts’ first gold medal of the Games with 1.3 seconds to spare, finishing in 2hrs 3mins 41secs.
The grimace of exhaustion etched on his face as he crossed the line may not have shown it, but Ellison was elated that his seventh attempt at winning the Arafura Games’ 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run had become reality.
“I thought my years were over,” Ellison said. “I’m glad I could finally get there.”
Just as he has done for the past 18 years, Ellison needed to bide his time in yesterday’s event.
Pre-race favourite Kyle Gear had built an impressive lead in the water and only seemed to add to it with every pedal pump on the bike.
But with Ellison bunched up with training partner and friend Jerome Bosmans in the second chasing group, the race veteran was confident of moving his way upthe pack.
And by the midway point of the cycle leg, the main pack in pursuit of Gear was in sight.
Gear’s main threat had snaked into a eight-man road train including former champion David Esposito and the race was destined to come down to a foot race.
Ellison and Gear dismounted together and set off for the defining 10km run for gold.
Much to Gear’s disappointment his gallant effort unravelled inside 5km.
“I spent all my energy trying to keep my lead on the bike,” he said.
Bosmans took advantage, moving into second. But it wasn’t the former NT Masters Athlete of the Year that was to worry Ellison.
The danger came in the form of a heavily medicated Australian Defence athlete who started the run in 15th place.
With Wickham struggling to overcome a sinus infection, even vomiting during the 40km bike ride, the 38-year-old mustered one almighty dash for the line.
His inspiration was opening ceremony singer Jon Stevens.
“I went to the opening ceremony because I thought if I can’t race the triathlon I would at least have to enjoy that,” Wickham said.
“With Jon Stevens singing away how could you not be inspired?”