Eckstein equals ironman record
HUGH Dougherty threatened a boilover but in the end had to watch as fellow Gold Coaster Shannon Eckstein won a record-equalling fifth Kelloggs Nutri-Grain Ironman title yesterday.
Eckstein and ironwoman Alicia Marriott survived energy-sapping conditions at Sydney’s North Cronulla Beach to claim the overall titles in the $250,000 series.
Eckstein, the defending champion, won a furious sprint to the finish ahead of Dougherty, his nearest challenger in the series, to secure a narrow eight-point margin in the series pointscore.
His fifth series victory matches the performance of his arch-rival Zane Holmes, who missed this year’s racing because of a back injury.
“It’s nice to win a fifth series but I never thought of equalling Zane because he won in a different sort of era before there was one series,” Eckstein said.
“I’ve just been consistent the last four or five years.”
Eckstein was made to fight hard for yesterday’s victory with Dougherty pushing him all the way.
The lead pair broke away from the field in the swim leg and then went stroke for stroke in the ski leg before hitting the beach together and racing desperately for the finish line.
The defending champion was able to just hold out his rival by inches and make it four wins and a second from five races for the series, to Dougherty’s impressive personal best of four seconds and a fifth.
“Today was tough,” Eckstein said.
“It’s hard being in front and not knowing whether to mark Hugh the whole way or just go yourself.
“I ended up marking Hugh the whole way and then trying to beat him up the beach.”
Olympic swimmer Ky Hurst capped his return to ironman racing with fifth place in the final and third overall in the series.
Marriott added the Kelloggs Nutri Grain Series to the Australian Ironwoman crown she won in 2008 and the two Coolangatta Gold titles.
Elizabeth Pluimers won yesterday’s women’s final but Marriott’s fourth placing was enough to give her the series crown after points leader Hayley Bateup struck trouble at the start of the deciding race and slipped back to finish ninth.
“Coming into this last round I thought whoever takes out the round would take out the series, but then coming in on my ski I was trying to look around and do the maths in my head and worked out if I didn’t stack it on my ski on the way in I’d come away with the crown,” Marriott said.
“To have won the Coolangatta Gold and then this series makes it the best season ever for me and if I could take out the ironwoman at the Aussies that would make it perfect.”