Passion, consistency and hard work are the essential ingredients of success, according to champion ironman Ky Hurst.
With seven ironman titles under his belt, it is fair to assume that Hurst, 29, knows a thing or two about success.
The Queenslander is widely considered to be one of the best ironmen in the history of surf lifesaving and in his 15-year career he has won 24 Australian surf titles, making him the third highest medal winner in the surf lifesaving Australian Championships.
He is also a proud member of the Surf Lifesaving’s Hall of Fame.
Winning, nevertheless, has not always come easily and Hurst admits that success is “damn hard work”.
“You have to be prepared to train day after day, week after week, year after year,” he says. “You need to have the mental drive and a burning desire to win. You have to want to start every race and compete every year. If you don’t have a burning desire to succeed, you never will.”
It was that burning desire to win and be successful that early on in his career earned Hurst the nickname ‘killer’, a nickname he still retains.
“I am just extremely passionate about what I do,” he says. “Some people will call me ‘killer Ky’ for my competitive spirit, but at the end of the day, it is my passion for the sport that keeps me coming back for more.”
Hurst says his philosophy of sport applies to every other area of life: “If you are not passionate about what you do,” he says, “you are wasting your time, because you can never be successful in a career you don’t enjoy.”
And while drive, hard work and a hearty competitive spirit have been crucial to Hurst’s success, consistency has also played a large part.
“The key is to get out there every day. Create a routine and stick to it. It may sound mundane, but if you do something day after day it will become second nature. Once something comes naturally, success will follow,” he says.
Hurst himself joined the professional circuit at age 15 and almost 15 years on – having created his own routine and stuck to it – he has never felt better than he does today.
“I feel like I am finally coming into my own,” he says. “I am fitter and healthier than ever before in my career. I have done this for so long now that I know the circuit. I have knowledge and wisdom on my side, which contributes to my success on the beach.”
Despite his successes on the international ironman circuit, Hurst says being an ironman never truly fulfilled his athletic desires.
His goal, nurtured since childhood, had always been to compete for Australia at the Olympics and he took his first shot at it in trying out for the 1996 Olympic team.
Hurst was accustomed to ocean swimming over long distances from his ironman experiences and he tried out for the 1,500m, the longest swim to be included in the Olympic program.
Despite making the final, he was beaten to a place on the team by two all-time greats, Keiren Perkins and Daniel Kowalski.
He remained undeterred, however, and would try out several more times before securing a spot on the Olympic team.
“You know what they say: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try again’. That’s exactly what I did. I wasn’t upset at losing to Keiren or Daniel; just reaching the final at 14 years of age was a massive accomplishment. I took it as a sign I was heading in the right direction,” he says.
Hurst subsequently tried out for the 2000 and 2004 Olympic teams but again he was unsuccessful. In 2005, he decided to give up his career in the surf to focus solely on swimming since it had been announced that the 10km open water swim would be held as an inaugural event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
At the 2008 FINA World Championships, Hurst raced alongside teammate Grant Hackett to book a ticket to Beijing, with both swimmers needing to qualify in the top ten. Hurst placed fifth, the only man to make it through for Australia.
“After 12 long years of hard work and dedication, my dream of representing Australia at the Olympics had come true,” he says triumphantly.
Hurst didn’t return from Beijing with a medal, but he did come back to Australia with his head held high and he regards his Olympic appearance as the highlight of his career – at least, to date.
He plans to replicate that achievement later this year when he tries out for the 2012 Olympic swim team.
Family and friends
Despite Hurst’s many successes, both on the beach and in the pool, he says he would not be where he is today were it not for the support of his family.
“I don’t think my mum has ever missed a meet,” he says. “She even came to Beijing to watch me compete.”
Whether you are pushing out 15km a day at the local swimming pool or writing 15 loans per month, having a good support network is imperative.
“Everyone experiences highs and lows,” Hurst explains “We have days when we excel at life and in our careers and other days when we don’t want to get out of bed. No matter how strong you think you are mentally, it is impossible to weather the storms of life without help or, at the very least, a good sounding board.”
His family was also there to support him when he announced plans last year to host his own group of swim meets with roommate and fellow ironman Brendan Capell. The Great Australian Swim Series was very well received, culminating in a swim just outside the Sydney Opera House on Australia Day.
“I’ve been in this business so long now that I understand what it takes to make a swim meet successful,” Hurst says. “So, drawing on that knowledge, my housemate and I launched our own event and the feedback has been tremendous.”
Was the event good enough to be considered a career highlight? “Definitely,” Hurst says, “though nothing will ever compete with the time I walked down the catwalk with Claudia Schiffer...”
But that, it seems, is another story.