39 Years after the Shaw and Partners Coolangatta Gold was first run, the incredibly small group of race winners failed to grow once again as former champs Ali Day and Lana Rogers claimed a record ninth and second title respectively.
While the pressure of expectation could’ve weighed heavily on defending champ Ali Day, he looked as cool and in control as ever, adding his name to the trophy for a ninth time.
Northcliffe’s Matt Bevilacqua pushed the pace early on the ski, with the front pack splintering within the opening kilometre. The two heavyweights would trade blows for the entire opening leg, while a few of the pre-race favourites, Finn Askew and TJ Hendy, were forced to withdraw.
Day made his move on an extended swim leg that ended up being closer to 4.2km, opening up a 4min gap to Bevilacqua and close to 6mins to Manly’s Kendrick Louis who also had one of the best swims of the day.
Louis would close on Bevilacqua in the board but both men would give Day 3mins 45sec start heading into the run. When Day slightly hobbled up the beach, he gave his rivals a small glimmer of hope, and Bevilacqua was taking about 20secs a kilometre off the leader, but it was too little too late as the unbeaten champ cruised to victory and reinforcing his title of the greatest to ever do this race.
Bevilacqua would easily take second, while his fast-finishing kiwi clubmate Cory Taylor managed to pass Louis late in the race for third.
Post-race Day indicated he wouldn’t stop unless he lost the love for the event and he doubted that would happen anytime soon as well as guaranteeing he’d be back next year if the course went to the “traditional” start and finish at Surfers Paradise.
This was billed as the race of champions with 4 formers winners taking part for the first time ever. The race would live up to the hype with Georgia Miller, Lana Rogers & Courtney Hancock finishing the ski leg side by side with young gun Lucy Derbyshire.
The defending champ from Noosa Carla Papac and Maroochy debutant Tiarnee Massie were forced to chase the entire race after missing the group early on the ski.
The awesome foursome would test each other throughout the swim and board before breaking out onto the run in what would be a sprint for the line. The drama was only beginning as Derbyshire dropped away, then the pace was too high for Hancock leaving only Rogers and Miller racing side by side.
With 2.5km left to the finish, a shockwave was sent through the beach with 2018 Champ Georgia Miller collapsing from burns on her feet from the road and sand and her race was done.
This left a distraught and exhausted Rogers to claim her second title from Hancock and Derbyshire. Rogers’ mixed emotions crossing the line, came from sympathising with her teammate, after her DNF in 2021 at almost the same point in the race as Miller. But Rogers also couldn’t hide her relief after an offseason club and coaching change, she told the crowd she’d finally found her home.
MENS SHORT COURSE.
It was a case of what could have been for Newport’s Jackson Borg, he looked so dominant in the Short Course, I wish he had raced the actual Gold instead. He looked in second gear all day to win by over 5mins ahead of Surfer Paradise duo Mitch Stitt and Archie Vernon. Strong shorter race for both those boys who are on the up, especially Stitt who made the move to SP Love this season from Maroochydore.
The big story of this one was u17 Aiden Carberry who went off with the big boys and finished 4th overall (and 1st u17) only 51secs off Vernon; he’s big and can run, with the fastest individual run of the race by over a minute, the future is bright for the young lad from West Beach in South Australia.
WOMENS SHORT COURSE.
Alexandra Headland’s Grace Harris wasn’t messing about and went off like she’d been shot out of a gun in the opening ski leg – but she certainly paid for it on the back half.
Tactics don’t matter when you’re the winner and she somehow managed to hang on to claim her maiden short course title by just 5sec. Incredibly it was her clubmate and u19 Sarah Cleverly who was hot on her heels in the finishing chute to beat home some really heavily favoured and well-known open girls. The u19s didn’t stop there with Redhead first year 19 Lani Waller, 3rd across the line, 1:53 behind the Alex pair.
Maroochy’s Courtney Bryant and Northcliffe’s Kalani Ives rounded out the open podium.
With a $20K prizepurse up for grabs in each of the team’s races, these were some of the best teams fields we have seen in a very long time. Before we get to the results, the highlight of the day was former Australian Open Ironman Champion Max Brooks forcing his entire bucks party to do this event. Literally everyone, and you could imagine how they we’re feeling after arriving midday on Friday.. Well done to the 9 teams entered under the MAX BUX banner, there was a few strugglers and you all survived and made the midday bus to the races… That’s what this event is all about.
To the front end, this one was a tight one between the Northcliffe and Manly teams with 9 secs the biggest gap throughout the race. It’d come down to Joe Collins for the QLDers and Harry Stone for the Sydneysiders on the run and the lightning quick Collins stormed home for them to take the ten grand. Manly held on for second while Kurrawa surprised everyone in third.
Once again Northcliffe were the red-hot favourites in this one but Newport were the absolute surprise packets here to claim victory. YES Newport had Jemma Smith and Lizzie Welborn BUT it was the “fastest of the day” swim from Dom Melburn and run from Piper Harrison that secured the victory for them. Third was the Rayward girls of sisters Jazmine and Bianca – incredibly they did 2 legs of the race each and held on for 3rd place (and doubled their cut of the cheque as well. Very well played ladies)
This was always going to be an interesting one, mixed events are as much about tactics as pure speed. Northcliffe once again performed to perfection by sending the boys out in front on the Ski (Tom Norton) and Swim (Riley Harland) and letting Harriett Brown and Hannah Scully bring it home, while Gold Coast power clubs Burleigh and Kurrawa rounded out the podium.
The “Downwind Paddle” became a 15km triangle when mother nature refused to play ball but they we’re still some cracking racing and runners as the paddlers headed up the coast, but I think most competitors would’ve rather less soft sand running to the finish.
The men’s race was super tight with Tom Norton sneaking in ahead of Cory Hill in a sprint finish, with Oscar Jones taking out third.
While the women’s race was expected to be a tight one Jemma Smith blew the field away to win by 3mins over Dani Richards (McKenzie) and Sascha Taurins.