As the only woman in history to win three major Ironwoman titles in one year, Courtney Hancock is a force to be reckoned with and we Gold Coasters are lucky enough to claim her as one of our own.
We sat down for a chat with the star athlete, smack bang in the middle of her pre season training, about winning the triple crown, how she rates her chances for the upcoming season and how I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here sparked a huge change in her career.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
It has been 11 years now. I grew up in Sawtell and moved here to join the surf club. I was already in the Nutri Grain series when I was at school and I wanted to be a part of the best club in the world, BMD Northcliffe and train with the best athletes.
What do you love most about living here?
I think the older you get, the more you appreciate things and within my career I’ve done so much travelling overseas and I do love it but I think it’s a really incredible feeling when you’re excited to come back home no matter where you are in the world. I think the reason is that our beaches are amazing, you can walk anywhere, there are headlands and parks, you always feel safe and you can go out into the bush if you want too, it’s so close. We’ve got the most amazing Sunday markets and really good shopping. I love the people and another thing is that you can travel literally 30 minutes down the road and you feel like you’re in a completely different place. It’s pretty special.
How did you first get into Surf Lifesaving?
Living in Sawtell, there was only one street in the whole town that was right on the beach and Mum and Dad had one of those houses on that street so we were stoked. Living there, they wanted us to be able to learn how to read the ocean and to know when it’s safe. That was the reason I joined, to learn how to swim and read the surf. I also loved surf lifesaving and I just really wanted to win. I charged when I was little.
What made you want to turn it into a career?
When I was probably eight years old one Sunday afternoon I was watching the Nutri Grain series on TV and I saw, when I was just doing the little nippers, what bigger me could do and I just fell in love with it. I recorded it and watched it over and over again. Mum and Dad would drive all of us to watch it and seeing the big guys in real life, I decided that’s what I wanted to do. Even at that age I saw how fit and healthy and happy they were, it seemed like such an amazing life and I thought if I could have my office at the beach I would be happy with life. I was also lucky I was very determined.
Tell us a few defining moments in your life so far…
It’s been an interesting journey. Going back to when I first moved here it was hard living by myself, I didn’t know anyone and I was only 18. It was very difficult and our coach back then made me work hard which was good because a few years later I won my first Nutri Grain series and that really changed things. There was a lot of focus on me and I was still only very young, it was quite hard to deal with at the time, I had to talk to the media, handle sponsorships, there was so much going on and it was really challenging at a young age. I’ve been really lucky with my surf club though; it’s been an awesome ride. I think you get to a point where you’ve achieved everything you want to and go through a bit of ‘where to next’ and it’s hard to keep going. I had about 12 months where I hadn’t won many races and I got an opportunity to go on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. I said no the first few times, I really didn’t want to do it but ended up saying yes eventually because I could fit it in. I finished the Nutri Grain, I think I got fourth that year so I was a bit disappointed with my results, but I flew straight over, no one knew, and had a month in the jungle away from the beach which made me realise I absolutely love what I do. It was a spark. I went on and managed to win the Coolangatta Gold that year and the next year. Since then I’ve lit the fire again and I’m really keen. I think you need to go through those things to rekindle that inner fire. In saying that, I’ve been lucky along the way, it’s not easy but you’ve got to have positive people around you to keep you up.
How did it feel to win the triple crown of events in 2011?
That was a very surreal year for me, it was the first Nutri Grain event I won and when I finished I thought, “I could retire now and be happy”. Since then I’ve just said anything other than that I’ll be so happy with. It was nice to then win the Australian Titles and for everyone to be like ‘wow Courtney really did it’ after a bit of negative media around the point score. The media questioned me about the Gold and were saying if you win, you’ll be the first person in history to win all three events in the nine months. That wasn’t the driving factor at the time, I had unfortunately lost my Grandfather the week before so that was the motivation for me to get across the line. It was a sprint finish after three hours of racing so I’ll never forget that one. I was very proud of myself that year and it really made me believe that if you put your mind to something you can really do anything.
If you weren’t doing this, what else would you love to be doing?
Everything. I’m inspired by so many people. If I could I’d want to be on stage, being Taylor Swift singing and dancing, that’s definitely not going to happen but that’s okay. I think at the moment I’m starting to think about my next chapter, unfortunately as an athlete it’s a short career. I want to work with kids, I love that, I’d also love to get involved in mental health, that’s something I’m really interested in. I’d love to get into the media; I think that would be really fun to still be with the sport and other sports. I think my heart lies in still keeping that little bit of sport and travel together.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Don’t worry too much and don’t stress the little things. Try to be the happiest, best person you can be. Do what you love and be with the people you love.
How do you rate your chances for the upcoming season?
At the moment, we’re in pre season training, which comes in as the hardest part of the year so basically it’s just getting yourself prepped and ready to get your foot on the line. I’m feeling really good. It’s hard when you come back from off season but I’m pretty keen to go for that Nutri Grain title this year.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: I like Broadbeach, Miami and Tallebudgera is always beautiful
Café: I eat everywhere, the food on the Gold Coast is so good at the moment. I like Metro in Broadbeach, BSKT is good. Paddock is a good one.
How does your weekend usually look: We do our Ironwoman session Saturday mornings, so that’s always really hard at BMD Northcliffe and finish up about 9.30 and get the rest of the weekend off. I’ll either go to the markets on a Sunday morning, go for a walk on Sunday afternoon, Saturday afternoons I love sitting down and watching the AFL and might go out for a nice dinner. I like going to Collective, that’s one of my favourite spots. That’s a quieter weekend.