December 19, 2011 – 1:08AM
The Toughest Event on the Planet Coming to Melbourne March 31.
THE reigning champion Courtney Hancock reinstated her dominance on the ironwoman series in Surfers Paradise yesterday, beating her fellow Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club contestants Elizabeth Pluimers and Kristyl Smith in challenging surfing conditions.
Manly’s Candice Falzon finished 12th, on her return to racing after four years, after being thrown from her ski in the shore break. Jordan Mercer, 18, daughter of the former ironman great Darren Mercer, sprinted home in the run leg to finish in seventh place.
The ironwomen had to contend with a strong current. Those who read the rip best had an advantage over their opponents, with the leading group of women, including Hancock, Smith and Mercer, pulling away from the chasing group, led by Pluimers, by 14 seconds after the board leg.
“Everyone would have to be pretty happy with the surf,” said Hancock, 23, who made a 200-metre dash up the beach for the second half of the swim leg to avoid resistance from the undertow.
“Going for the warm-up I really just had to read the surf,” Hancock said of the rip conditions, “and with the swim, it ended up being my best leg.” Hancock and Pluimers train together and finished first and second last season.
The tides looked like they were turning in Pluimers’ favour yesterday when she made up the 14 seconds in the swim leg to lock Hancock in a battle that went all the way to the beach after the ski leg. Hancock crossed the line only seconds before Pluimers.
“After the first round I really wanted a good start and I don’t think I could ask for a better start,” Hancock said. “You’ve really got to stay up [at] the front . . . if you get [below] the top three, you’re just too far behind, with the depth of talent in this series.”