IRONMAN Ali Day powered to his fourth Coolangatta Gold title on Sunday and is now looking ahead 12 months to a possible showdown with the only man who has a better record, five-time winner Caine Eckstein.
The Surfers Paradise ironman crossed the line in the 41.8km endurance test more than five minutes ahead of his nearest rival, Matt Bevilacqua (Kurrawa), with rising talent Alex Wright (Alexandra Headland) third.
Day, who had battled a recent calf injury and only passed a fitness test late Saturday, said he was just grateful to be able to get to the starting line.
"I was at the physio a couple of hours every day this week and I had an amazing team around me to get me to the line,” Day said.
"It's a bit sore but thankfully it lasted and I can put my feet up now.”
In the elite women's race, Northcliffe's Courtney Hancock won her second title ahead of Allie Britton (North Burleigh) and Rebecca Creedy (Kurrawa).
The joy and relief at finally winning again, mixed with exhaustion, saw her on the verge of breaking down as she crossed the line in 4:29.07.
"I felt very emotional seeing all my family there, because you never know how many races you've got left as an athlete,” she said.
"You just have to make the most of every single race.”
Hancock was challenged early by Britton and Creedy, but took charge in the 3.5km swim and pulled away to a comfortable win.
Britton finished second just under three minutes behind Hancock, while Creedy was another four minutes back in third place.
"I woke up this morning and I thought if I could put it together it will be the best race ever,” Hancock said after her win.
"In the last two years I have felt really good in races but it's been really frustrating for me. I have been so close.
"I knew all week I felt something special, I felt really, really good.”
Day's win in three hours, 54 minutes and 29 seconds puts him one victory short of the record held by Caine Eckstein, who could potentially line up against Day in 2017.
Adding further spice for next year is the clear indication that Australia's greatest ever Ironman champion, Caine's brother Shannon, has indicated that 2017 would be a perfect time for him to race Australia's toughest Ironman contest.
"Caine is the reason I first wanted to win this race and it would be amazing to maybe take him on next year,” Day said.
"When I was young and saw him win his first race I thought 'how does he do that' and just wanted to be like him.
"I saw him on the course again today, like last year, and high fived him.
"We'll see what happens next year but for now I'll enjoy this fourth one.”
Coolangatta Gold results:
- Long Course Men: Elite: A Day (Surfers Paradise) 03:54:29, M Bevilacqua (Kurrawa) 4:05:07, A Wright (Alexandra Headland) 4:05:09, K Louis (Manly)4:06:07, N Gray (Surfers Paradise) 4:06:48, H White (Currumbin) 4:07:49, B Zuill (West Beach) 4:12:12, T McDonnell (BMD Northcliffe) 4:14:55, L Chapman (Surfers Paradise) 4:16:55, J Nicholson (BMD Northcliffe) 4:17:58.
- 19-29 years: M Gilling (Mordialloc) 4:46:34, J Haigh (Warilla Barrack Point) 5:19:56, T McMorrow(Inverloch) 5:23:08.
- 30-39 years: C Poland (Nowra-Culburra) 4:40:18, G Coltman (North Curl Curl) 4:45:23, T Jennett (Wollongong City) 04:48:43.
- 40-49 years: M Forrester (North Burleigh) 04:42:33, A Keegan (Unattached) 5:09:13, M Jennett (Wollongong) 5:13:24.3.
- 50 plus years: A Buhk (Alexandra Headland) 04:55:06, B Chase (Monmouth County - Sea Girt, New Jersey, USA) 5:38:41, S Oxenford (BMD Northcliffe) 5:45:34.
- Teams Open: Central Engineering Currumbin (4:01:13) Team Manly 2 (4:07:30) Team Manly 1 (4:08:23).
- 35 years: Terrigal Masters (4:26:34.5), Mt Keira Podiatry (04:36:14), Mad Mackerals (4:44:09).
- Women's Elite: C Hancock (BMD Northcliffe) 4:29:07, A Britton (North Burleigh) 4:31:53, R Creedy (Kurrawa) 4:36:12, T Ferguson (Surfers Paradise) 4:56:03, I Kanyitur (Moana) 5:26:16, D Godoy (Freshwater) 5:45:39.
- 30-39 years: T Smith (BMD Northcliffe) 5:15:49, A Bowman (Sorrento) 6:00:31, L Trebilcock (Bondi).
- Teams Open: The Pelicans (5:08:49), Leo Legends (5:26:52).
- 35 plus years: Manly Gold Diggers (5:09:58)
- Mixed Teams: Team Harambe (4:13:18.9), Team Jones (4:53:54.0), SBBR (5:10:16.6). 35 plus years: Wauchope Bonny Hills - Expressway Spares (4:46:25).