Switzerland's Spirig takes Olympic gold in women's triathlon as Jenkins finishes fifth
Saturday, 04 August 2012
August 4 - Switzerland's Nicola Spirig produced a stunning sprint finish in an enthralling women's triathlon here to take the gold medal but there was agony for the home favourite Helen Jenkins of Britain who missed out on a podium spot after finishing in fifth.
From the start of the triathlon at 9am, which was free to the public, Hyde Park was packed with thousands of spectators, the majority of who were waving Union Jack flags and screaming their support for reigning world champion Jenkins.
The 28-year-old from Wales certainly gave the noisy fans something to cheer about from the outset as she stayed with the leading pack in the swim and also in the cycling.
She then looked well placed in the run before a quartet headed by 30-year-old Spirig accelerated away on the final lap, leaving her to finish in a disappointing fifth.
Back in the race for the medals, the Swiss athlete produced a stunning burst of pace in the last 50 metres to claim the win in an unprecedented photo finish with Sweden's Lisa Norden.
Almost unbelievably over the gruelling long distance race, the pair finished with the same time of one hour 59min 48sec but Spirig took the gold by a whisker with her dip across the line.
Australia's Erin Densham, who was also involved in the sprint finish, finished just behind in 1:59.50 while America's Sarah Groff was fourth in 2:00.00.
"It is an amazing feeling to be the Olympic champion," said the inform Spirig, who recently won both the Madrid and Kitzbuhel legs of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Series.
"It was incredible to have a finish like that and something I have never really seen before but I'm just delighted I had enough to get that first place."
The win means that Switzerland becomes the first nation to win the triathlon event twice at the Games following the victory of Brigitte McMahon in the women's triathlon at Sydney 2000, where the sport made its Olympic debut.
Meanwhile Jenkins, who was roared on by magnificent crowds up to 20-deep in some parts of the track, admitted that a knee injury had limited her training and had a critical effect on her ability to finish off the run.
"I had a problem with my knee and it's been a battle to get here really," she said.
"I've been training through a lot of pain for 10 weeks.
"We've had a lot of tears, a lot of emotion going on, but I've had a great team around me and we were confident I'd still be close to it.
"Unfortunately today I wasn't 100 per cent there on the run.
"I could focus on my swim and bike, and get that ready, but I didn't have enough today.
"If the race had been a few months ago, I would've been all right."
At the start of the race, things seemed to be going according to plan for the Briton as her teammate Lucy Hall, who had been specifically entered to help Jenkins, led the 1500m swim and stalled a breakaway of seven cyclists to allow Jenkins to stay with the leading pack.
It left Jenkins perfectly placed for the run before she fell away from the leaders in the final stages and it means Britain remain without an Olympic medal in the sport.
However, that could quickly change next Tuesday (August 7) in the men's triathlon on the same Hyde Park course where the formidable Alistair Brownlee and his younger brother Jonny are the overwhelming favourites to take gold and silver having dominated the men's sport for the past three years.
June 2012: Third victory of the year for Spirig at ITU World Triathlon Series
April 2012: Hat-trick heaven for Gomez and Spirig in triathlon's Euro Championships