Courtney Hancock grits her teeth as she chases Liz Pluimers in the Ironwoman event at Coolum.
Courtney Hancock grits her teeth as she chases Liz Pluimers in the Ironwoman event at Coolum. Mark Donaldson

Rewards to former nippers

IT seems quite incredible but two former nippers who spent their formative years in similar sand and surf territory are seeing their careers run in parallel.

Sawtell-raised Courtney Hancock, 22, and Yamba’s Hugh Dougherty, 27, are finally reaping the rewards after doing long apprenticeships in surf sport.

Their profiles continue to soar in the 2010-11 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman and Woman series, which moves to Portsea for the fourth round on Sunday.

And both will head to New Zealand on January 31 as part of the Australian team contesting the 2011 International Surf Rescue Challenge at Mount Maunganui.

Now racing from Tugun, Dougherty broke a long string of second placings when he won the last event at Coolum. He leads the men’s event on 56 points, ahead of defending champion Shannon Eckstein (52) and Matt Pool and Caine Eckstein (both 49).

“It’s good to have that monkey off my back,” Dougherty said.

“I’ve had so many seconds and I’ve been so close so many times, trying so hard. Finally getting it was amazing and hopefully I get a bit of a roll on. I want to win a couple more.”

Dougherty will be back at his home beach today when he competes in the Yamba Ocean Swim.

Hancock’s consistency has made her the number one challenger to break the stranglehold on the current series by Elizabeth Pluimers.

She is still to get past unbeaten Pluimers but, with 55 points, remains just five from the top.

Alice Marriott is third with 50 points.

Round four at Portsea, where conditions are traditionally wild and extremely difficult, introduces the Triple Sprint format for what will be one of the world’s first major sporting events of 2011.

Triple Sprint is a more conventional Ironman and Ironwoman course, with competitors going out and back once for each water leg, with a 100m run between the legs.

For the first race the order of water legs will be ski/swim/board, for the second swim/board/ski, and for the third board/ski/swim.

Athletes accumulate points in each of the three races to get their overall placing.

For men, it’s three 20- to 25-minute races, while women do a shorter version of the same course.



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