Fit Bateup covets more Gold
RATED Australia's fittest female athlete, Hayley Bateup admits she will be tested when one of the world's toughest endurance events - the legendary Coolangatta Gold - is held on the Gold Coast tomorrow.
Then again, Bateup, 31, battled to just line up for the gruelling 30.5km women's surf lifesaving race. Complications following shoulder surgery last year turned a 12-week recovery into an 11-month ordeal.
But almost a year to the day after going under the knife, Bateup is backing herself to claim a record-breaking fourth women's crown.
"I like going into a race as favourite. I thrive on it," Bateup said.
"But there were times I didn't think I was going to do the race this year.
"I had surgery a year ago but it took about 11 months for the shoulder to feel like normal again.
"A month ago 'bang', it happened. One day I just woke up and my shoulder felt amazing.
"Since then I have been able to step up my preparation a few notches.
"Now I am hungry. I really expect to go out there and win it on Sunday."
Bateup won the Coolangatta Gold in 2005, when women competed for the first time, then took the title again in 2006 and 2008.
Her chances of an unprecedented fourth crown have been boosted by the withdrawal of the only other women's winner of the event, Alicia Marriott.
The 2007, 2009 and 2010 champion will not take part after opting to concentrate on the Ironman Series and Australian Championship.
Not that Bateup will be short of rivals.
Courtney Hancock, 23, has the chance to become the first male or female to win surf lifesaving's triple crown in one season.
She has already been hailed as the 2011 national ironwoman champion and Kellogg's Nutri-Grain series title-holder. She has been on the podium three times at the Gold but never won.
Yet Bateup considers Liz Pluimers, who famously finished third last year, a year after collapsing 20 metres from the finish line, her biggest threat.
"I would say Liz is the main one to watch for over that race distance," she said.
"But definitely Courtney will be up there."
Pluimers, who has finished on the podium in all but one of the years she has contested the race, reckons she can go one step further this year.
"The last couple of years I have done the race because it was just a race to do, something to train for during winter. This year I have really committed and said I wanted to do it and do it well," she said.