Year of triumphs for ironwoman Gina Ferguson

Triathlon coach Greg Fraine is predicting a route to the top of the ironman game for Christchurch athlete Gina Ferguson after a season of breakthroughs.

The former New Zealand cycling representative and age-group world ironman champion has been coaching Ferguson for two years and is impressed with the progress she has made in a short time.

"I think she can go all the way to the top," he said. "She has all the attributes and is still very young in the sport."

Ferguson, 28, won Ironman Western Australia on Sunday to end a successful year in the gruelling swim (3.8km), cycle (180km) and run (42km) sport.

It was her second major win in just nine ironman events, having won Ironman Wisconsin last year. She was also third at Challenge Roth in Germany in July and, on debut at the world championships in Hawaii in October, finished a creditable eighth.

Fraine believed when the Christchurch athlete mastered the bike leg she could take her performance to another level.

"She's got no shortcomings as a swimmer," he said. "In running, she's pretty much there, and if she can just get her bike just a little bit quicker then...."

He felt Ferguson's run time would also improve when her bike leg improved.

"She'll find she's got a bit more gas in the tank when she comes off the bike.

"I don't think she'll mind me saying that she's still very naive as far as racing goes," Fraine said. "She's got a long way to go, which is good news."

Ferguson's results this year ensure she will no longer fly under the radar whenever she is on the start line at events.

"She's not one who likes the limelight that much, but she handles it very well," Fraine said. "She just gets on and does her own thing. She's able to switch off very easily."

Ferguson will be eyeing next year's Ironman New Zealand, where she will be one of the leading contenders to dethrone six-times champion Joanna Lawn.

Ferguson became New Zealand's fastest female over the ironman distance when she stopped the clock in 8:57:18 in the Challenge Roth in July, going under nine hours for the first time.

Her time of 8:59.24 in Busselton on Sunday was hampered by incidents in the water and on the bike.

She had been stung by a jelly-fish on her chin while warming up for the swim leg and, in the tussle on the 3.8km swim section, was struck in the face three times, forcing her to slow to pull her goggles back on.

Then, when she was about 80km into the bike leg, her left aero bar came loose and she rode 100km holding it in place. Ferguson has a starting spot in the Challenge Wanaka ironman next month.

The Press