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Eckstein And Flood ready to defend Titles

Defending Ironman champion Shannon Eckstein and his female counterpart Naomi Flood are both primed to defend their titles at the 2007 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships at Scarborough beach this week.

The pair declared they are in peak form when interviewed at a media conference yesterday and said they are ready to take on the challenges presented by the new championships venue.

“It probably suits me better here than at Kurrawa,” said 23-year-old Eckstein, who is aiming for his third ironman title. “The flatter conditions mean luck will not be such a factor although the wind will be important. “We've been doing plenty of flat water work in training so I'm well prepared for the conditions.”

Eckstein nominated training partner and Northcliffe clubmate Zane Holmes as the hardest rival to beat this week. “We've been one and two all summer and it should be close again here,” he said.

While Eckstein and Holmes lead a field of young guns, nipping at their heels will be veteran Dean Mercer, who at 37 years of age will be looking to turn back the clock this weekend.

Mercer won his first Australian Ironman title in 1989 and was second the last time the championships were held at Scarborough in 1991. Two weeks ago he showed he is in top form by making the final of the Kellogs Nutri-Grain series.

“I just love racing,” he said. “I've never had a day when I didn't want to race or train and I love being in the action. “I'm cutting back my program this weekend, doing the Ironman and the team events, so I'll be fresh and ready to race.”

Flood arrived in Perth on Tuesday and while still shaking off the effects of a flight from Sydney via Melbourne was yesterday keen to start her Ironwoman championship defence.

“I'm ready to go,” the Manly star said. “I haven't had a great year but my form at the NSW championships was good so I'm confident I'll do well. “I don't feel any extra pressure being the defending champion, I put enough pressure on myself anyway.”

Flood will need to defy history to successfully defend her Ironwoman crown.

Over the past eight years, no competitor has been able to win the open crown twice.

Other past winners who will be chasing their second title this weekend will be Kristy Harris (Northcliffe) who was the form competitor throughout the Kellogs Nutri-Grain series, Kristy Munroe (Alexandra Headland), Hayley Bateup (Northcliffe) and Kristyl Smith (Northcliffe).