The Gold Coast's warm winter sun is attracting athletes from around the world as preparations for next year's Commonwealth Games step up a gear.
With more than 300 days of sunshine each year, the tourism hotspot is an ideal location for sports stars to compete and train at a time when their usual home bases go into winter hibernation.
And with many of the GC2018 venues now completed and in operation, spending winter on the Gold Coast is an ideal preparation for the Games which will be held from April 4-15 next year.
The Athletes' Village is nearing completion and on track to be handed over to Games organisers in October. The first athletes will enter the village in March next year.
But many are already on the Gold Coast using facilities such as the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, the newly opened Gold Coast Indoor and Leisure Centre, running tracks around Burleigh Headlands, bike tracks in the Gold Coast Hinterland and the Coast's pristine beaches and waterways to hone their training ahead of next year's Games – the biggest sporting event in Australia this decade.
Lawn bowls is a huge sport at the Commonwealth Games.
And some of the world's leading players – and their supporters – will be in action on the Gold Coast in coming months.
It kicks off with the Trans-Tasman Test on the Broadbeach greens, which is the venue for next year's Commonwealth Games bowls competition.
The renovated Broadbeach Bowls Club is ideally situated just a short walk from the beach in one direction and Pacific Fair and the Broadbeach dining scene just a few blocks north.
International players and fans will get a taste of the Gold Coast's brilliant winter at the 2017 Gold Coast Multi-Nations event which follows the Trans-Tasman Test in June.
The Multi-Nations event will feature two Australian teams, as well as players from Scotland, New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong China, Wales and Canada.
The pre-Games action on the Gold Coast greens culminates with the $250,000 2017 Australian Open, which will be played at clubs across the GC2018 host city from June 10-23.
Among those players in action include Gold Coast-based Australian Jackaroos captain Lynsey Clarke.
If selected for GC2018, Gold Coast will be Lynsey's fourth Games after Melbourne (2006, Lynsey won gold), New Delhi (2010, Lynsey was fourth) and Glasgow (2014, Lynsey won silver).
“I can't wait for the Commonwealth Games to come to my hometown of Gold Coast next year,” Lynsey says.
“The excitement has been building ever since the announcement of our hosting rights and I can't believe it's now just a year away.
“Our wonderful city has been somewhat of a hidden gem to the rest of the world so it will be fantastic to showcase all we offer.
“From our wonderful sporting facilities to our beautiful beaches and lush rainforests, to our theme parks and fantastic bar and restaurant scene - we truly have it all!
“It's a fabulous, long overdue opportunity for the Gold Coast to shine on the world stage. I'm truly a proud and passionate Gold Coaster who's counting down the days until the Games begin.”
Thousands of runners will sweat it out in the Gold Coast winter sun when they contest the Gold Coast Airport marathon on July 1-2.
The marathon is an official test event for the 2018 Commonwealth Games with the course the same as that to be used to decide next year's marathon gold medals for men, women and para-athletes.
The start and finish lines are at the Southport Broadwater Parklands with the 42km course going north to Paradise Point and south to Burleigh Heads and taking in amazing views along the foreshores of Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Miami and Burleigh.
It is free to line the picturesque course and cheer the runners and wheelchair athletes.
The full weekend of activities also includes a half marathon, a 10km run, a 5.7km challenge and junior dash.
Dozens of athletes across the Games 18 sports and seven para sports are also using the Gold Coast's mild winter to prepare for GC2018.
Among the is Northern Ireland triathlete Aileen Reid, who has been combining her training with exploring the many restaurants and coffee shops within walking distance of her Broadbeach home.
Aileen recalls one of her first long rides on the Gold Coast which she did with English triathlete Liz Blatchford.
“We rode down the Currumbin Valley . . . and we saw some kangaroos then we went to the (Broadwater) Spit and I stopped to fill up my water bottle and there was a dolphin in the water,” Aileen says.
“I just said: 'Wow, this is just awesome'.”
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Author: Geoff Stead
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