SURF LIFESAVING: Shannon Eckstein has put himself in the box seat for a seventh Nutri-Grain Ironman Series title after winning the penultimate round at Coolum today.
In choppy 1m waves, the 29-year-old extended his lead over Mooloolaba's Kendrick Louis, who finished second, to 56 points.
Northcliffe club member Eckstein now faces a simple equation in the final round at Noosa next Sunday - finish ninth or higher to ensure a series win.
With six titles under his belt, Eckstein said he was not feeling any pressure but would not bet on himself.
"I get nervous but I don't think I get as nervous as the other boys," the series veteran said.
"I've got my head around it - it's just a sport really. It sounds cliched. I do care about it and that's why I train so much for it.
"(But) if I lose the series it's not a big deal. Whereas (with) the other boys it's a weight on their shoulders.
"You saw Pooley last week on the ski (a reference to Mooloolaba's Matt Poole punching his craft after coming off it at Surfers Paradise). He was trying to win and he's proving a point.
"But to me, it's just a bit of fun. It's a job obviously but I take it as it comes."
After a poor start today when he finished seventh in the first race, Eckstein recovered to win the final two races and take the round.
Louis finished second, with Olympic open water swimmer Ky Hurst pipping Poole on a countback for third.
Eckstein sits at the top of the leaderboard on 444 points, with Louis on 388 and Mooloolaba's Ali Day on 352.
In the earlier Telstra Ironwoman Series event, former champion Courtney Hancock set up a thrilling series finale after winning round five.
Hancock narrowed Olympic kayaker Naomi Flood's series lead to just eight points.
She revealed she suffered a concussion when she hit her head on her board at round four at Surfers Paradise last week and was suffering migraines up until three days before today's race.
However she shook off her troubles, knowing that her title hopes hinged on a podium finish today.
"If I didn't get on the podium today it was going to be very difficult for me to catch up," she said.
"The confidence boosts a lot for next weekend."
After finishing sixth yesterday, Flood leads the series on 376 points, with Hancock second on 368 points.
Brodie Moir is third on 328 points, having slipped down the leadership today after finishing ninth.
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