NAROOMA’S Justin Bennett has proven himself to be one of the world’s fastest men on sand, winning two silver medals for Australia at the World Life Saving Championships in France.
Justin last week competed in the beach sprint event and then in the flags event in the Masters division at Rescue 2014 held on Le Couchant Beach at the resort community of La Grande-Motte on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Narooma Surf Life Saving Club member was narrowly beaten by the same competitor from South Africa in both events.
The South African athlete, who had won the events at the two previous world championships, crossed the line just ahead of him in the beach sprints.
Justin then found himself facing him again in the flags event where competitors sprint to grab a length of hose known as the flag.
He said they both launched themselves at the last remaining flag and it was so close that even though he may have grabbed first, it was the South African who came up with the flag.
There was a protest but the video footage was indeterminate and the judges ruled in favour of the South African.
Despite the closeness of the competition between the two, he said it was done in good sporting spirit and they had a good chat and congratulated each other.
Justin said it was great honour to represent Australia and he was very lucky to be able to travel overseas.
This is not Narooma’s first connection to sporting greatness associated with beach sprinting, as Melissa Hoar also represented the Narooma Surf Life Saving Club at an international level.
Melissa was ranked No 1 in Australia for open women's beach sprint and flags in 2004 and was a two time individual beach flags world champion.
She went on to represent Australia in the sport of skeleton at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games finishing 10th.
A relative newcomer to the sport of beach sprinting, Justin qualified for France by winning the events at the national championships held in Perth earlier this year.
His father Bob Bennett received an award of his own, picking up his Order of Australia Medal in Canberra on the same day his son competed in France.
Athletics and sports run in the Bennett family as Justin’s daughter Lilly competes at a state level in athletics and along with her cousin Connor Griffiths recently travelled to Canada to compete in a team of young athletes chosen to represent Australia.
Upon his return from France on Sunday, Justin was reunited in Sydney with fellow hometown competitors the Narooma Numnutz winter swimmers, who were in the city competing at the Winter Swimming Association national championships.
His uncle Trevor Bennett, also an OAM, is among the swimmers and all of them celebrated his medal wins out on the town that night and then he joined the swimmers for their bus ride back to Narooma on Monday.