Ali Day and Courtney Hancock to defend Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold titles
Defending champions Ali Day and Courtney Hancock will be out to continue their dominance of the 2017 Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold when the cream of surf sports talent lines up for the ultimate endurance test on October 7 and 8.
Day will be hunting a record-equalling fifth Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold title, while Hancock will be chasing her third crown.
Winning the 41.8km event for the fifth time would place 27-year-old Day equal to Caine Eckstein as the most successful athlete in the history of the event, which stretches back to Guy Leech’s win in the inaugural race in 1984.
But to take a historic fifth title the Surfers Paradise star will have to defeat the most successful Ironman competitor in the sport’s history, Shannon Eckstein.
After undergoing an operation to correct calf problems that have affected his previous bids to win the Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold, Northcliffe’s Eckstein –eight-time Australian Ironman champion and nine-time winner of the sport’s professional series – is setting his sight on the one major event that has eluded him during his glittering career.
His return comes a decade after he last started the Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold – he placed second to Rhys Drury in 2007 – and Eckstein wouldn’t have committed himself to the prestigious event if he didn’t think he had a realistic chance of challenging Day for the winner’s trophy.
Also among the challengers this year will be Currumbin’s Hayden White, whose rivalry and friendship with Day extends back to their Nippers years at the Warilla Barrack Point club on the New South Wales South Coast, followed by a period as clubmates at Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast.
White placed sixth in the 2016 Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold, but based on last year’s finish times has more than 13 minutes to make up if he is to stop Day’s winning run.
Hancock’s victory in 2016 ended a frustrating run of minor placings in the event since winning her first title in 2011.
Her pursuit of a third title in 2017 could have a feeling of déjà vu about it.
Last year the Northcliffe competitor won an emotional race ahead of Allie Britton (North Burleigh) and Rebecca Creedy (Kurrawa), and the trio will line up again for this year’s race.
Britton, who originally hails from the Carlton Park club in Tasmania, was a fast finisher in last year’s race, with her strong run leg cutting Hancock’s advantage to two and a half minutes at the finish line.
She has twice won the Coolangatta Gold short course and seems to improve every year, which indicates Hancock won’t have an easy lead.
Rising teenage star Naomi Scott (Manly) is set to test her skills in this years Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold long course after a breakthrough year in the professional series in 2016/17.
The 17-year-old is already one of the sport’s best swimmers and will be a threat to the leading contenders in the 3.5km Burleigh Heads swim if can hold on through the opening 23km ski paddle to Miami and 2.1km run.
The long-course event on Sunday, October 8, which also includes a 6.1km board paddle and a concluding 7.1km run, will start and finish at Coolangatta Beach as experienced in previous years.
But a new race map means a different experience for competitors in Saturday, October 7’s short-course race.
Racing in the 21km event in previous years has been over an out-and-back course, but this year all transition zones will be at the start/finish area at Coolangatta.
After the start at Coolangatta, competitors will follow a loop course for the 10.5km ski paddle, the 2km swim, 3km board paddle and 5.5km run – allowing spectators and supporters the chance to easily follow the progress of the race.
The 17th running of the Coolangatta Gold will attract endurance surf athletes from all over the world to compete in one of the most challenging surf sport races and test themselves alongside some of Australia’s greatest sporting figures.
The Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold event now attracts over 500 competitors across the Short Course, Teams Youth Challenge, Masters, and those in the Long Course hoping to take home the coveted Gold title.