American Danny Ching called on his high school sprint swimming experience to help him win the Underwater Strength Run and Swim discipline of The Ultimate Waterman at the National
Aquatic Centre, Auckland.
The win puts him in second place overall behind Zane Schweitzer of Hawaii and means Sunday's final Stand Up Paddle Endurance race could be won by either competitor.
The Underwater Strength Run and Swim is new for 2016 and involves competitors dropping into the pool and holding their breath for 30 seconds before running along the bottom holding a 25kg dumb bell in each hand.
Competitors were required to then drop the weights on a mat, come to the surface and sprint swim 25m back to the start. Each athlete had two attempts and their best time was taken.
Ching completed the drill in his fastest time of 1.08.83. Second was Manoa Drollet of Tahiti in 1.10.45 and in third was the Australian Mark Visser in 1.11.43.
Ching said he realised yesterday at a group training session that the sprint swim element was going to be the deciding factor.
"I noticed that we were all on par with each other in regards to running with weights, it was slippery on the bottom and it was going to be hard to get an edge.
"I felt confident after that because I was a high school swimmer for ten years specialising in sprint swims so I knew I could win," said Ching after the race.
Sunday's final race is a 16km race back to shore from Motuihe Island.
Official Results - Underwater Strength Run and Swim
1st - Danny Ching (USA)
2nd Manoa Drollet (PYF)
3rd Mark Visser (AUS)
4th Caio Vaz (BRA)
5th Daniel Kereopa (NZL)
6th Connor Baxter (HAW)
7th Zane Schweitzer (HAW)
Overall Results (after 6/7 disciplines)
1st Zane Schweitzer (HAW)*
2nd Danny Ching (USA)*
3rd Daniel Kereopa (NZL)*
4th Mark Visser (AUS)*
5th Caio Vaz (BRA)*
6th Manoa Drollet (TAH)*
7th Connor Baxter (HAW)
8th Kala Alexander (HAW)*