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Newbiggin calls it quits

Ironwoman Gemma Newbiggin has decided it is time to move on.
Ironwoman Gemma Newbiggin has decided it is time to move on. Mark Donaldson mdphotocomau

AS ONE eminent Mooloolaba ironwoman signalled farewell to the professional ranks, another of the club's competitors emerged to fill the void yesterday.

Despite finishing fifth in the IronWoman Series in January, earning her a spot in the 2011-12 edition, Gemma Newbiggin, 24, has surprised many observers by calling it quits, paving the way for teammate Nikki Chapman to claim a shock berth in the next series.

Mooloolaba coach Michael King paid tribute to Newbiggin yesterday, describing her as a mainstay of the sport's elite in recent years.

"She's been involved for a hell of a long time and started at a very young age and I've been really lucky and fortunate to have coached her through the whole of her career," he said.

"She's an awesome athlete and I've got the utmost respect for her."

Newbiggin did not return the Daily's call yesterday, but King said: "Eventually you've got to move on in life ... you get to an age when you have other priorities."

As a three-time state junior ironwoman champion, Newbiggin was destined for big things. She evolved into a consistent performer at state and national level and was among the main contenders in four of the past five IronWoman Series.

Chapman was delighted to get a call-up from series organisers after finishing 10th at the trials at Noosa Heads.

"I am still in shock. It's still sinking in," she said yesterday.

Formerly of Swansea Belmont SLSC, near Newcastle, Chapman came north to train under King to prepare for the trials, but enjoyed the move so much she became a member at Mooloolaba.

"I've never trained so hard in my life," she said.

"Normally I wouldn't have even got back into training. I used to suffer badly with illness and asthma down there, so it was really hard to train during winter. You just couldn't be consistent."

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