Wanaka's Gina Crawford showed she is on course for next month's Ironman World Championships after an outstanding victory in Australia yesterday.
Crawford had to repel a stern challenge from Japan's former ITU Olympic star Kiyomi Niwata to win the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast in Mooloolaba.
This follows the New Zealander's win in Yeppoon in Queensland and second placing in the iron-distance race in Malaysia this month.
While current world champion Pete Jacobs led from go to whoa to win the men's race, Crawford had to dig deep during the run leg to secure the victory.
It was the sacrifice of spending time away from her son that helped her pull away from Japan's Kiyomi Niwata late in the run, with the early leader, Australian Lisa Marangon, third.
"Kiyomi caught me at 10km and I didn't think I could win, but it's a big sacrifice for me to come here and race and be away from my son for three days so I wanted to win it for him. I gutsed it out and got the win," Crawford said.
For Crawford, the victory gives her the confidence she will need when she tackles the world championships in Hawaii, following on from her career-best seventh placing last year.
Crawford spent the swim and bike legs as the hunter, chasing Marangon, who had built a 3min-plus lead on the back of a strong swim-bike combination.
After taking the lead early in the run, Crawford became the hunted as triple Olympian Niwata produced a fast run to move into contention.
Niwata and Crawford spent most of the second lap running side by side until Crawford made a move in the late stages, building a 37sec lead, and was able to hold on for the win.
"I had an issue with my bike. The tyre was flat and I couldn't pump it up and ran out of time so I just left it. On the ride, I was working hard but not really getting anywhere. I was surprised I ran so well, and glad I gutsed it out and got the win," she said.
Several below-par race results this year invited questions on Jacobs' ability to defend his world championship title in four weeks. But yesterday, in a world-class time of 3hr 39min 58sec, he answered those questions, winning the men's race by 7min from fellow Australian Clayton Fettell.
"I was burning to get a win here. I'm getting in good shape to defend my title at Hawaii, and I felt awesome on the bike and built into the run," Jacobs said.
- © Fairfax NZ News