Skier Ben Pettingill received the loudest cheer on Saturday morning when 99 Psycho Clowns rounded the bend to Victoria Park boat ramp.
Crowds were on their feet as the blind, motivational speaker turned ski racing-addict crossed the finish line in his first Southern 80 with the good time of 15.54.
It may have been the slowest of the disabled class, but there was an overwhelming sense of relief from the entire audience when the 21-year-old made it to the end.
None more so than his mother, who was close to tears as she watched her son from the bank with the rest of his friends and family from Melbourne.
Pettingill was the fifth boat to take off in the disabled class, but it was far from a smooth start for his inaugural race.
‘‘I ended up going head-over-ski on my first attempt and missed the start,’’ Pettingill said.
‘‘My ski and goggles both came off and I had to get told by the team where to find them.
‘‘But I got them back, re-set and got up without a problem after that.’’
Pettingill said the team of Daniel McMahon (driver), and Steven Berry (observer) had been incredibly accommodating throughout the entire journey.
Their support had filled him with confidence for his first 80, but he was still caught off guard ahead of the race.
Not even his experience speaking to rooms full of people could prepare him for what was to come.
‘‘The whole thing was unbelievable,’’ he said. ‘‘It was completely different to anything I had imagined it would be.
‘‘There were a lot more nerves than I thought and the amount of adrenaline and pressure you feel in the lead up is like nothing else.’’
However, there was an overriding motivation behind his reason for racing.
‘‘What helped me most was knowing I wasn’t just out there skiing for myself,’’ he said.
‘‘I was skiing for everyone who may have something holding them back to show them no matter what their circumstances they can achieve anything they set out to do.
‘‘I have a great love for the sport and it’s always been a race I’ve dreamt of doing and thought was impossible until now.’’
Pettingill said he would definitely be back to race again next year, and 99 Psycho Clowns’ Jessica Pearse said the full 80 could be on the cards.
‘‘Ben wanted to give the big race a go this year, but we just didn’t have the time to get in the training required,’’ she said.
‘‘We’ll have a look at it again in 12 months, but he’s already proved anything is possible.’’