Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig won the closest Olympic women’s triathlon in history yesterday, pipping Sweden’s Lisa Norden for gold after a dramatic photo finish.
Spirig and Norden were neck-and-neck as they hit the finishing tape in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 48 seconds, after a desperate sprint to the line following a grueling 1.5km swim, 43km bike ride and 10km run around the picturesque Hyde Park course.
Australia’s Erin Densham, just two-hundredths of a second behind, took bronze. British favurite Helen Jenkins dropped off the pace in the final lap and finished fifth, with the US’ Sarah Groff fourth.
Spirig, 20, a former world junior champion, is Switzerland’s second Olympic triathlon gold-medalist after Brigitte McMahon in 2000.
In cool, damp conditions, the British plan had swung into action on the opening leg as Lucy Hall, picked for her strong swimming, took the lead by the first turn on Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake.
Cheered by big lakeside crowds and a packed grandstand, Hall was first onto the bikes on 18 minutes, followed by Denmark’s Line Jensen, Japan’s Mariko Adachi and Pamela Oliveira of Brazil.
However, disaster hit Oliveira when she wiped out on a slippery left-hander near Buckingham Palace — and the same corner soon claimed half-a-dozen other riders, including Australia’s 2008 bronze-medalist Emma Moffatt.
Hall rode at or near the front of a 20-strong lead group during the 43km bike race, forcing the pace to set up Jenkins for the 10km run, which is her strong suit.
However, Spirig, Densham, New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt and Australian Emma Jackson remained in close attendance as they completed seven laps of a challenging course.
Saturday, Aug. 4
Men’s shot put final
Chang Ming-huang finished 12th of 12 after throwing 19.99m.
Women’s discus throw qualifying
Li Wen-hua finished 10th of 17 in Group A after throwing 59.91m and was eliminated.
Men’s long jump qualifying
Lin Ching-hsuan finished joint 17th of 21 in Group A after jumping 7.38m and was eliminated.
Women’s trap qualifying
Lin Yi-chun finished 10th of 22 and was eliminated.
German racer Anja Dittmer was first through the transition in 1:26.06, but it was Jenkins, Spirig and Densham who led a 10-woman lead group as the four-lap, 10km road race began.
Jackson dropped off the pace as the leaders were cut to five and then four, with Denshan, Spirig, Norden and Jenkins breaking away at about the 3km mark.
Jenkins was the next to falter as Densham forced the pace and the gripping race climaxed in a sprint finish. Spirig inched ahead, but Norden came back and the exhausted pair were all but inseparable at the line.