Gentle creates history with Noosa success
ASHLEIGH Gentle had an angel on her shoulder as she powered to a record-setting fourth-straight victory at the Noosa Triathlon on Sunday.
The Gold Coaster sent a kiss skywards just before the finish line as she became the first triathlete - male or female - in the 35-year history of the iconic event to record four consecutive elite race wins.
The world no.2 said winning to honour the late Garth Prowd - who was the driving force behind Noosa and the sport in general before he passed away earlier this year - was as big a thrill as setting any records.
"He (Prowd) was here with us today, no doubt and he will still be out there until the last person crosses the line. He'll always be a huge part of the Noosa Tri and I'm so happy that I was able to race well and race for him,'' Gentle said.
"It might take a while to sink in (four-straight wins) but I'm obviously really happy.
"It hurt all day but I just kept thinking, 'keep going, be strong'.''
It was Gentle's fifth Noosa triumph overall, equalling the mark set by triathlon legend Emma Snowsill.
"She (Snowsill) loved this race and it feels like a huge honour to be able to have my name up there with hers,'' Gentle said.
"It's not about beating people's records. If it happens, that's fantastic but it's not something that really motivates me. Everyone wants to win the Noosa Tri.''
The Rio Olympian stayed in touch with the leaders in the swim and bike legs and started the 10km run leg 81 seconds behind Natalie Van Coevorden.
But she reeled her in by the 4km mark and also showed world duathlon champion Felicity Sheedy-Ryan a clean pair of heels to surge to victory.
Sheedy-Ryan finished second with Van Coevorden in third.
"Natalie rode really hard and was really aggressive on the bike and I just wanted to make sure I was close enough that I could run her down,'' Gentle said.
"I felt pretty good. I got a split in the first couple of kilometres and it was down to 47 seconds so I knew I was making positive inroads.''
The Noosa victory caps off a career-best year for Gentle who has reaped the rewards from training under renowned Wollongong-based coach Jamie Turner and a four-month stint racing overseas.
Gentle has pre-qualified for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April and will enjoy a break over Christmas before focusing on winning gold in her hometown.
Snowsill was at Noosa as a commentator on Sunday and said Gentle was ready to take the next step and challenge for medals at major championships.
"She has really honed her skills, really got her mental game really strong which is what you need to race,'' she said.
"She will get a huge confidence boost from this year.''