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Cooly Gold champ relishing Day’s challenge

He’s the defending champion but Matt Bevilacqua knows he’s not the man to beat in Sunday’s Coolangatta Gold.

That would be six-time winner Ali Day – who missed the 2019 race after breaking both wrists in a freak accident earlier that year.

Bevilacqua, the first Tasmanian to qualify for the national surf Ironman series, made the most of Day’s absence two years ago to win the iconic event.

COVID forced the race to be cancelled in 2020 but Day made a triumphant return last summer from his dreadful injury to sweep the 2020-21 Ironman series.

That dominant display has Bevilacqua under no illusion who he has to defeat on Sunday if he’s to retain his crown.

“Reigning champ and then to defend it against Ali, it’d be my biggest achievement in the sport,” Bevilacqua said.

“It’d be one of the biggest things to ever be done in the sport probably.

“He’s a six-time winner, he’s the best this sport’s ever seen.

“It’s been a wild ride from Tassie and come Sunday if that was to be done, it’d be incredibly special.”

The 41.8km endurance race will this year be held within a tighter course with all of the transition points for the various ski, swim, board and run legs to be at Coolangatta, due to a reduction in volunteers and officials who travel from New South Wales and Victoria.

Bevilacqua says the tighter circuit will make for a more thrilling spectacle and tougher racing for those competing.

“It means we stay in the protection of Coolangatta, only a northerly will really get wind in through here,” he said.

“Out and back, it kind of compresses it a little bit, but that makes for a tighter race and a more exciting race.

“That’s what we want to do, put a show out there on Sunday.”

While Day returns to challenge for his seventh Gold crown in the men’s event, the women’s event will feature Lana Rogers attempting to retain the title she won in 2019 ahead of a field including two-time winner Courtney Hancock.

The 2021 Coolangatta Gold begins at 7.30am AEST (0830 AEDT) on Sunday.

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