SUNSHINE Coast's Clint Robinson has claimed three Molokai World Championship titles but he rates yesterday's victory as the sweetest.
The 40-year-old Olympic gold medallist held strong to take the 51km Hawaiian event in a time of 3hrs 55.24 to somewhat appease the heartache of his 18-second loss last year.
"They've all been good but after last year's narrow loss, this one feels very special," he said.
"It is such a tough race to paddle and I took my opportunities and am ecstatic to get the win."
Robinson succumbed to debilitating cramps throughout the closing stages of last year's race, but fought on admirably to claim second place.
He said that defeat was an added incentive for him to dig deep when it mattered most.
"The latter parts of the race are toughest and that's when you find out if you can do it," he said.
"After about three-and-a-quarter hours the body's really hurting, but you have to put the pain aside and push on."
Robinson led early before South Africa's Sean Rice edged past him through the middle stages of the race.
But Robinson fought hard to reclaim the lead, putting in a determined effort to come back in testing conditions.
"I had a plan on how I wanted to race and I stuck to that and it worked," he said.
"Rice came at me but it was important I kept foc
used on what I wanted to do and it paid off."
With the finish line in sight, Robinson never wavered as he paddled through three-metre swells around Hawaii's famed China Wall.
With just a six-week preparation before the race, a healthy-looking Robinson said he was in the best shape of his career.
"I feel really good at the moment and have actually never felt better," he said.
"I always keep pretty fit and you have to be to get through the race."
Having completed 10 races for a record of three wins, four seconds, a third, a fourth and a tenth, Robinson said he was yet to decide if he will return next year to defend his title.
"The kids are getting older and it's not all about me anymore, so I'll have a chat to the wife and have a think about things."
South African Sean Rice finished second in a time of 4hrs 00.47sec with Australia's Corey Hill claiming third in 4hrs 06.04.
Robinson won a gold medal in the K-1 1000m at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, as well as silver in Athens 2004 (K2) and bronze in Atlanta 1996 (K1).
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.