KY Hurst describes it as his Jarryd Hayne moment.
The dual Olympic long-distance swimmer and one of the most successful ironmen in surf lifesaving history has dropped a bombshell by retiring from the sport to take up a prized contract with Amercia’s Cup champions, Oracle Team USA.
Hurst, who was taught to sail as a toddler by his grandfather, will move to Bermuda – the training base of Oracle Team USA – in September to commence his preparation for the 2017 America’s Cup, ending all plans to compete in this year’s Nutri Grain Ironman series.
“I’m really lucky to have this opportunity presented to me – I hope it opens a pathway for other athletes and kids, to set goals and think this is achievable,’’ Hurst said.
A series of top secret testings over the past 12-months has proven the catalyst for the 34-year-old to achieve one of the most remarkable career changes in Australian sport.
The trigger was a conversation with world class sailors Iain Murray, Carter Jackson and Glenn Bourke in March last year.
Alongside Hurst, the trio were among a host of multi-sport superstars invited to the Middle East by Bahraini prince Sheik Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa for the attempt by his brother Sheik Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa to swim from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain for charity.
“It was there that I expressed an interest to those guys, who are all good friends of mine, that if ever a position was to come up as a grinder on a boat, I would jump at the chance,’’ said Hurst, who competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games in open water swimming.
Hurst didn’t think any more of the conversation until three months later he recieved a phone call from Jackon explaining that 2012 Olympic sailing gold medallist and Orcale Team USA crew member Tom Slingsby wanted to meet him in Sydney.
“I’ll do whatever it takes,’’ Hurst told Slingsby.
“I’ve got the engine for what you guys need. I can go all day.’’
Slingsby organised a series of tests on a grinder machine for Hurst, who competed in his first Nutri Grain Iroman series at age 15, to prove his worth.
The results were impressive. It led to a meeting with two-time Amercia’s Cup winner and Australian skipper of Oracle Team USA Jimmy Spithill before Hurst received an invitation for more testing in Bermuda last month.
“They are the most professional team I have ever come across in my life,’’ Hurst said.
“I did a whole series of tests. Grinding tests, strenghth tests, but I think the biggest test they were looking for was whether I could get along and how I interacted with the team and adapated on the boat.
“Over the two weeks, my tests compared to my previous tests with Tom…I completely smashed them.
“They were ecstatic. On the second last day I was there, I was asked if I would be part of Oracle Team USA.
“It’s still sinking in to tell you the truth.’’
Hurst will continue to work as an ambassador for Westpac and will return for Christmas each year with wife Katie and two-year-old son Koa, with an eye on continuing to compete at the Australian Surf Titles, if his schedule allows.