Former Nutri-Grain series champions hope changes to elite series help revive interest in sport
FORMER Nutri-Grain champions Ali Day and Courtney Hancock admit “things aren’t going to be the same’’ with the elite series cut to just three races this season.
But the pair hope live coverage of the iconic sport will lead to a renewed interest from fans and sponsors that will help push the ironman and ironwoman series back to its halcyon days.
Day and Hancock are among leading contenders for this year’s Coolangatta Gold, with the delayed Nutri-Grain series actually aiding their preparation for the 41.8km endurance test.
The Nutri-Grain series has been slashed from six events to just three held over a single long weekend in Sydney in February.
And while both Day and Hancock admitted it was disappointing, the adjusted calendar has an upside for their Coolangatta Gold recovery, meaning they will not have to push their bodies to return to racing within weeks of the marathon race.
“The surf season this year, I think the calendar’s really great,’’ three-time Gold winner and defending champion Day said.
“You can do the Gold, you get a bit of time off and it’s worked really perfect for me.
“I don’t have to do the (Nutri-Grain) trial, I don’t have to do any of the Summer of Surf (races) if I don’t want to, which gives me a mental break.’’
A three-time Nutri-Grain winner, Hancock is yet to qualify for this season’s series after the worst year of her professional career but believes she can kickstart her year with a strong showing in the Gold.
“I think finishing last year’s Nutri-Grain on a downer and not knowing what the series had in store … I just said right there and then, ‘I’m going to focus on the Gold’,’’ she said.
Both Hancock and Day admitted the series would not be the same but said they were trying to find an upside in the new format.
“There are a lot of things that aren’t going to be the same this year with the series but the most positive thing is that it is live,’’ Hancock said.
“Everyone wants to watch live sport. People will be seeing that in our sport and I think that opens it up for other big sponsors.’’
Day admitted the series was different from when he started but hoped the changes and the pathway through the second-tier Summer of Sport events would revive the concept.
“It’s not what it was when I first came into the sport six or seven years ago,’’ he said.
“But in saying that, it’s a really good opportunity for young kids to come through the sport, I think the Summer of Surf is a really good avenue and there’s a clear-cut pathway for kids to come through which is great and I think the deal with Fox Sports is amazing too.
“I think that’s where sport is going.’’