Australia’s fittest lifesavers will converge on the Gold Coast on Saturday and Sunday, chasing a slice of sporting history in the ionic Coolangatta Gold.
Names like Guy Leech, Darren Mercer, Michael King, Rhys Drury, Zane Holmes, Caine Eckstein, Josh Minogue and Ali Day are etched into the annals of the race first contested in 1984.
Since then the Coolangatta Gold has expanded with the first women’s race won by Hayley Bateup in 2005 and with Alicia Marriott, Courtney Hancock, Brodie Moir and Liz Pluimers also winning the famous race.
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Hancock and Day will both line up on Sunday hoping to add to their spoils over the gruelling Long Course – the 23km ski paddle from Coolangatta to Miami via-Broadbeach; 2.1km run to Burleigh Heads; 3.5km swim from Burleigh to North Burleigh and back; 6.1km board paddle fro Burleigh to Currumbin and the final 7.1km run from Currumbin to Coolangatta.
The 2011 winner Hancock will have two-time podium finisher and two-time Australian champion Rebecca Creedy and Short Course winner Allie Britton to contend with while Day will be up against one of the strongest fields ever assembled.
The withdrawal of 2016 Nutri-Grain Series winner Jordan Mercer from the women’s field and Nathan Smith from the men’s field will open up opportunities for potentially new podium finishers.
Manly’s Kendrick Louis, with two-time winner Leech in his corner, could be one to step up to the plate alongside the likes of fellow Ironman Series competitors Matt Bevilacqua, Tanyn Lyndon and Hayden White; young gun and Under 19 winner Alex Wright; Short Corse winner Nathan Gray and podium finisher Jake Nicholson.
Louis will spearhead a big team from Manly and for Leech it is like turning the clock back to 1984 when he and three Manly team mt5es Craig Riddington, Steve Wood and Graham Bruce dived into the unknown of the Coolangatta Gold.
“It’s great to see the Manly crew lining up in numbers and making the trek north for the iconic race and look I think from what I have seen that someone like Kendrick could certainly surprise,” said Leech.
“The change to Manly this season from Newport has already given him a new lease of life and he will head into the race ready to handle anything that comes his way.”
The 16th running of the Coolangatta Gold will attract endurance surf athletes from as far away as the USA to compete in one of the most challenging surf sport races in the world and test themselves alongside some of Australia’s greatest sporting figures.
From its inauguration in 1984, when Leech was crowned victor, the Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold event now attracts over 500 competitors across the Short Course, Teams and Masters categories, and those in the Long Course hoping to take home the coveted Gold title.
The Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold 2016 again sees the inclusion of the Youth Challenge event, which contributes to the overall event through encouraging the next generation of surf sports competitors to begin to make their mark from the age of 10.
The new Cooly Classic Beach Volleyball Championships will also be a feature this weekend.
The comp will include a two day Pairs Tournament and a one day social four-a-side event on Sunday.
Volleyballers will battle it out on new courts built on the beach opposite The Strand.