Caine Eckstein grabs a swim cap before heading onto the board leg.
Caine Eckstein grabs a swim cap before heading onto the board leg. Blainey Woodham

Caine holds on for record

KURRAWA'S Caine Eckstein fought off a brave challenge from Nathan Smith to win a record-breaking fifth Coolangatta Gold title on the Gold Coast yesterday.

The great athlete had to pull out all stops to beat Cronulla's Smith who was by his side until the 4km run from Bilinga to Currumbin where Eckstein managed to surge away and go on to his record-breaking victory.

Smith hung on strongly to finish second ahead of Mooloolaba's Alex Tibbits.

A bout of glandular fever threatened to derail Gold Coast local Eckstein's unbeaten run in the iconic race.

But he showed no ill effects as he won his fourth straight Gold in a time of 4:15:26.

The win means the 'King of the Gold' has won five of the 11 runnings of the race - 1980s ironman legend Guy Leech is the only other man to claim victory more than once - Leech won the inaugural Coolangatta Gold in 1984.

"It was tough," he admitted after finishing in the face of a brutal headwind.

"I probably had the worst night of my life last night. I let the nerves get to me.

"Every year I've done so much training, just been so confident that no one has been fitter than me.

"I only did seven weeks of training where as usually I do 14 or 16 weeks.

"Luckily it worked out but I probably had 45 minutes sleep last night."

Smith pushed him hard for most of the race despite only starting training six weeks ago when he made a belated decision to enter the race following the birth of his twin girls.

After a bizarre start, which saw the field take off ahead of the green flag only to be brought back after 500 metres, Eckstein and Smith put a three-minute gap between them and the rest of the field and remained neck-and-neck during the surf-ski leg.

They continued to duel until the final 10km run, Eckstein's preferred leg, where he strode clear over the latter stages to claim another memorable victory.

Eckstein still looks like a man with no intention of letting anyone get any enjoyment out of winning the Coolangatta Gold.

When asked if he would be backing up next year, Eckstein said it depended on how "I go in the Kellogg's series".

"I think that's how I got the glandular fever from doing this and then the Kellogg's series straight after last year," Eckstein said.

For the 30-year-old Smith, a holiday with his wife and twin daughters on the Gold Coast was the catalyst for him contesting the big race.

This was the fourth occasion Smith has been a placegetter in the race.

He was second to Zane Holmes in 2006 and third behind Eckstein in 2008 and 2009.

"That was by far my best result with the amount of training I've been doing," Smith said.

"I wanted to push the pace on the ski to get away from the fast finishers like Mitch Miller and Alex Tibbits.

"So for me the plan certainly worked."