SURF LIFESAVING: Kendrick Louis could be the country's happiest ironman.
Five competitors finished higher than the Mooloolaba member at the Nutri-Grain Ironman Series' opening round in Perth last Sunday - but Louis still felt like a winner.
The reason for his upbeat mood is simple - he is back competing in the "show" after being derailed by a knee injury in his 2011-12 campaign.
That injury occurred in Perth and Louis admitted he arrived in the Western Australian capital last week needing to overcome a psychological hurdle.
"I was really happy with my end result," he said.
"I went into Perth not with the highest expectations.
"Obviously, I wanted to do well. I just went there wanting to get back racing again.
"That was it. It was all about me wanting to go back to where I hurt myself and get over it playing on my mind a little bit since it happened."
Louis was leading the series after three rounds last season when the injury occurred.
He had finished in the top five in each of those rounds.
Six-time series champion Shannon Eckstein, the overall winner last Sunday, said before the Perth round that Louis was probably his strongest rival across all four legs.
In the opening board race last Sunday, Louis came ninth and then finished 10th in the board race and second in the surf race.
In the ironman finale, he finished 11th.
"I went into that day thinking a top-10 result would have been unrealistic," he said.
"To end up sixth, I was really happy with that."
Louis, 22, said Eckstein's high opinion of him meant a lot.
"I take everything Shannon says with very high regard because he's one of the most well-respected guys in our sport," he said.
"He's shown that he's done everything that can be done. I do like hearing that, especially coming from him."
The series' next round is in Newcastle on January 12.
Like last year, Newcastle will showcase the eliminator format. Two competitors will be eliminated in the first race, three in the second race and four in the third race.
The fourth and final race will feature the surviving eight.
Louis enjoys the format.
"I think all the formats are good … I think it's fair across the board," he said.
"The eliminator format is great. It's one of the hardest formats because the pressure is on you from the start.
"It's always really cut-throat."
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