Gina Ferguson exhausted but happy after Ironman

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Sleep was high on the list of priorities for Christchurch athlete Gina Ferguson after she achieved her goal of a top-10 finish at the Ironman world championships.

New Zealand scored two top-10 finishes at the gruelling Hawaii event yesterday, with Ferguson claiming eighth place in the women's race and Auckland's Cameron Brown coming fifth in the men's event.

Ferguson was "really happy" with her final placing in her first attempt at the famous championship race.

"My aim was a top-10 finish, so I'm really happy to get eighth," an exhausted Ferguson said.

"But I've never felt like this though. It is so hard. I usually can finish really strongly, but I felt really sick about four miles (6.4km) from the finish."

Ferguson, 27, was third after the 3.8km swim leg but dropped out of the top 10 on the 180km bike ride.

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A strong run saw her climb her way back into eighth position as she crossed the finish line in 9hr 36min 53sec.

"I am totally exhausted and feel horrible, but I have done a good job. Now I just want to sleep," she said.

Defending champion Chrissie Wellington, of Britain, dominated the women's race, winning in 9hr 6min 23sec and was 15 minutes clear of second-placed Yvonne van Vlerken, of Austria. Germany's Sandra Wallenhorst was third.

Wellington ran a superb 2hr 57min marathon.

Ironman New Zealand champion Jo Lawn finished 14th in 9hr 45min 33sec after dropping out of the top 10 on the run leg.

Ferguson returns home to Christchurch to tune up for her second love, the violin, and a couple of concerts with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. She has her sights on the Western Australian Ironman in December.

She will also be in action in New Zealand in January, when she will attempt to defend her Challenge Wanaka title.

Meanwhile, Brown started well in the men's race in Hawaii with a strong 3.8km swim in a tick under 52 minutes and was still within touch of the leaders after the bike leg.

However, the usually strong finisher admitted he "ran out of legs" on the run slipping to sixth position, crossing the finish line in 8hr 26min 17sec. He was later elevated to fifth with Germany's Timo Bracht disqualified for failing to take his penalty for drafting.

Australian Craig Alexander, who ran a 2hr 45min 1sec marathon, won the men's title in 8hr 17min 45sec. Burguera Llanos, of Spain, was second in 8hr 20min 50sec with Belgian Rutger Beke third in 8hr 21min 23sec.

Taupo's Bryan Rhodes finished 23rd in 8hr 53min 35sec.

- with NZPA 

The Press