Internationals Attack Speight’s Coast to Coast

Published: Sun 20 Dec 2009 02:08 PM
Internationals Attack Speight’s Coast to Coast
Almost 800 people will line up on Kumara Beach for this year’s Speight’s Coast to Coast. But while the 28th edition of the 243k cycle, mountain run and kayak race across the South Island has been dubbed “the year of the family”, it could be international entries who steal the lime light.
With still eight weeks until the 2010 Speight’s Coast to Coast on February 12 and 13, Race Director Robin Judkins is ecstatic with record international entries.
“At the moment we have 131 entries from 19 countries,” said Judkins. That’s the most we’ve ever had, and we’ll get more before the race.”
Entries this year have come from as far afield as the USA, England, France, Canada, Scotland, Wales, Malaysia, Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Germany and even Zimbabwe and the Cook Islands.
“The really impressive thing is that for the first time internationals out-number every New Zealand region except Christchurch,” says Judkins. “Christchurch always has the biggest entry, but Auckland has usually been the next biggest. But this year it’s all about the internationals.”
In actual fact, the 2010 Speight’s Coast to Coast was meant to be all about families, but fittingly the record international interest does include significant family involvement.
German doctor, Andre Rudolph, experienced the event as a spectator in 1999 when he was an exchange student at Shirley Boys’ High School in Christchurch. More than a decade later he is returning to participate with his schoolboy host family acting as support crew.
England’s Beverly family have made the Speight’s Coast to Coast their ultimate reunion, with Michael, his daughter Alice and her boyfriend Matt Cates all entered for the Two Day Individual event.
Similarly, when American Jim Woods told his family he was going to the other side of the world to race across New Zealand his wife, sister and 74 year old father all insisted on coming to support him.
Some international entrants also have local family interest. Steven Grant is flying out from Scotland to take on the One Day World Championship event, with parents along as support crew and his New Zealand-based sister providing accommodation.
“The interest from the UK has been huge,” says Judkins. “For the first time Australia is not the biggest international entry. We have 46 from the UK and 42 from Australia, which is a record for both countries actually. There is also a record entry from Americans, with 13.”
Internationals could also have a big impact on the race for line honours in 2010. The world’s most prestigious multisport race has been won by overseas athletes on three occasions since the event was established in 1983. Race record holder Keith Murray (10:34:37, 1994) hailed from Scotland, but was living in New Zealand when he won. The same can be said of Murray’s wife Andrea, who hails from the USA but was living in Christchurch when she set the women’s race record (12:09:26, 1997).
More recently, Canadian-born Emily Miazga had won the Speight’s Coast to Coast three out of the last four years. But she was living in Christchurch and is now on the West Coast, and even has a successful New Zealand-wide business called Em’s Power Cookies.
Indeed, the only true internationals to triumph at the Speight’s Coast to Coast were inaugural winner Dr Joe Sherriff (1983) from the UK, South African Rockley Montgomery (1992) and  Australian John Jacoby, a former kayak marathon world champion who won the Speight’s Coast to Coast three times in six years (1988, 89, 93).
Robin Judkins agrees that his year of the family might just turn into a year for internationals. In the men’s race defending champion Gordon Walker will need to watch out for Brazilian Kenny Sousa Alvez, Sweden’s Scott Cole and Martin Flinta, and Canadian Jakob Van Dorn. These four have all won major races in their home countries and Martin Flinta has placed in the top 15 at the Speight’s Coast to Coast twice before.
Judkins, however, thinks the women’s race is most likely to produce an international upset. Emily Miazga is favourite to notch up a fourth win, with 2007 winner Fluer Pawsey expected to push her hard, but a strong international contingent will provide several dark horse challenges.
The most likely is Finland’s Nelson-based Elina Ussher, who has won just about everything except the Speight’s Coast to Coast and a solid third place last year hints at her finally coming to grips with the world title event. Others expected to challenge include Brazilian Nora Audra and Denmark’s Sia Svendsen, who are both now based in Christchurch. Among true-blue internationals, watch for Brazil’s Camila Nicolau, Sweden’s Emma Wichardt and Canadian Ursula Tracz, who has dominated the adventure scene in her country.
The biggest female threat, however, will come from Australian Kim Beckinsale. The Noosa resident is an experienced endurance athlete and professional coach currently enjoying the best form of her life despite being 42 years of age.
Hailing from a triathlon background she won a world age group title in 2003 and three consecutive Australian titles (2002, 03, 04). In more recent years she has moved across to multisport and adventure racing with podium placings in Australia’s top events such as the Kathmandu Series, Keen Adventure Race, Anaconda Series and GeoQuest. She is expected to excel on the mountain run, where she has won some of Australia’s most prestigious events such as the Pomona Queens of the Mountain and the Glasshouse Trails Series.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a deeper international challenge for the podium,” says Robin Judkins. “For me it’s very gratifying because it confirms the Speight’s Coast to Coast’s prestige worldwide. This was the first multisport race in the world and it’s still the one that everyone wants to do.”

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