Coolangatta Gold: Courtney Hancock inspired by grandfather’s memory, Cane Eckstein claims fifth title | Courier Mail

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Coolangatta Gold: Courtney Hancock inspired by grandfather’s memory, Cane Eckstein claims fifth title | Courier Mail.

Courtney Hancock and Caine Eckstein celebrate their wins
CHAMPION ironwoman Courtney Hancock says the spirit of her late grandfather spurred her to a historic victory in today’s Coolangatta Gold. An emotional and exhausted Hancock, 23, fought back tears as she told how the death of her 90-year-old grand-dad and lifesaving inspiration Ron Goodenough two weeks ago had rocked her world and her preparations for the gruelling race.

Hancock held off perennial podium finisher Liz Pluimers and three-time winner Hayley Bateup to win her first Coolangatta Gold and make an unprecedented clean sweep of the nation’s biggest ironwoman races, having also won this year’s Australian title and Kellogg’s NutriGrain series.

She said it was only the memory of her grandfather that kept her going in the tortuous last 60m run up a soft-sand chute to the finish at Kurrawa Beach.

“I saw that finish tape and I thought of my grandfather the whole way, just the whole way,” she said.

“My grandfather was 90 but he was my best friend in the whole world. He was such an amazing swimmer and I think I got some of that from him.

“He’s one of the main reasons why I started (lifesaving).”

Hancock, who attended her grandfather’s funeral this week in Coffs Harbour where Mr Goodenough was a life member of the local surf club, said she had wanted to win the Coolangatta Gold ”so much”.

“The last two weeks have been the hardest two weeks of my life. I’ve been really flat and really upset.

“I just wanted to do it so much for my family to cheer them up because everyone’s been so sad.”

Hancock was mobbed by jubilant family members including younger sister Bonnie, who also competed in the Coolangatta Gold but was forced to pull out with a shoulder injury.

In the men’s race, Caine Eckstein won his fifth Coolangatta Gold after another dominant performance.

Despite glandular fever interrupting his preparation for the gruelling 46.65km marathon, the 25-year-old Kurrawa star blitzed the field to claim his fourth successive gold trophy. He also won the 2005 Coolangatta Gold.

Buffeted by a brisk north-easterly in the 10km run leg home, Eckstein finished well outside his record time of just over four hours.

But he was still clearly the standout competitor, taking the lead in the opening ski leg and never surrendering it to defeat former Australian ironman champion Nathan Smith (Cronulla) and Mooloolaba’s Alex Tebbits.

Eckstein’s performance belied his sleepless race eve as nerves about his shortened preparation got to him.

“I only got about 45 minutes sleep … it was probably the worst night of my life,” he said.

Ecskstein revealed a secret weapon – his great uncle Mick, a retired doctor who put him on vitamin drips during his bout of glandular fever to heal his battered immune system.

“He helped me in the four weeks I had off (training) …. I couldn’t have done it with it him,” he said.

Eckstein led the pack out of the water at the ski transition point at Greenmount and powered into the 3.5km swim leg from Coolangatta to Bilinga.

But Smith closed the gap and the pair emerged from the surf shoulder to shoulder.

Eckstein, however, made his move in the 4km run leg to Currumbin, breaking away for a 100m lead as Smith began to show signs of fatigue.

There was drama earlier at Currumbin when young competitor Andrew Grimshaw was pulled from the water with breathing difficulties.

Paramedics treated him on the beach and he was taken to hospital by ambulance, but his condition was believed to be satisfactory.

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