Gina Ferguson 'could be world champ'
Gina Ferguson's coach, Greg Fraine, is convinced the Christchurch athlete can become a world Ironman champion.
Ferguson won her first New Zealand Ironman title in Taupo on Saturday, breaking Kiwi Jo Lawn's six-year stranglehold on the event.
Fraine believes Ferguson, 29, can go a lot further and is tipping her to improve on her eighth placing on debut at last year's world championships at Kona, Hawaii.
"She's definitely capable of going to the top," said Fraine, who has moved to Christchurch to take up his new role as Triathlon New Zealand's national coach.
"With her work ethic, she's going to keep on progressing and I can see her carrying on for quite a number of years. Her economy of motion is perfect for Ironman racing. She can definitely do a lot in the sport."
Ferguson has won her last three races over the 3.8-kilometre swim, 180km cycle, 42.2km run distance. Asked if she had the potential to become a world champion, Fraine said: "Yes, definitely. She's got enough focus and enough drive."
He admitted, however, that she was still "a long way off beating" Briton Chrissie Wellington, 31, who has won the past two world championship races at Kona.
"She's so far advanced of anyone else in the world currently," Fraine said. "Gina would struggle to beat her right now, but ... Gina can keep on progressing."
He said Ferguson, who has a competitive swimming background, had made great improvements in her running and biking and he believed there was potential to get better.
"She definitely won (at Taupo) on the run. She's been threatening to do that for a long time. Time-wise, she took the field apart on the run, but the big improvement was actually the bike [leg]. She managed to limit the loss on the bike to basically a minute, whereas previously she'd been coming through 10 to 15 minutes down ..."
Fraine said it was "fantastic" to have two elite international women Ironman athletes in Ferguson and Lawn.
While he will oversee triathlon's Olympic and world championship programmes, Fraine will still have time to coach Ferguson in the Ironman arena. "We've got a pretty good coach-athlete relationship and I can only progress further by keeping a balance in my coaching, rather than just coaching standard-distance [triathletes]."
He believes Ferguson's role as a Christchurch Symphony Orchestra violinist gives her a vital balance. "I think it complements [her sport]. I think she'd agree her No1 goal is definitely triathlon. I know her commitment is to become the best Ironman athlete in the world, but as long as she can fit [the violin] in and can carry on her training and it doesn't risk any of her recovery time, I think it's a good thing."