The greatest finish in triathlon history? Certainly one of them. Because after nearly two hours of racing Nicola Spirig and Lisa Norden went toe to toe down the finish chute in what was a spectacular finale to a fascinating race. After much deliberation (and photo analysis) Spirig was awarded gold, Norden silver (although both registered the same time) and Erin Densham bronze. Helen Jenkins was with the lead group until the final kilometres, but ended up fifth.
A lot of the talk going into the race was about Lucy Hall’s selection as a Team GB domestique in the race. She played that roll to perfection. Hall led a group of seven out at the start of the swim (18:17) with a chase pack some 30-seconds down.
Crucially, though, that chase pack contained all of the main medal contenders – including Hall’s Team GB team mate Helen Jenkins. And from the off Hall’s determination to serve Jenkins on the bike was apparent. Looking back to spot the chase group from the start, she left the other leaders to do most of the work as the chase pack got themselves organised. And even though the leaders looked good at the start, when Pamela Oliviera went down on a corner that would claim far too many cyclists over the course of the race (including Emma Moffatt) they lost a valuable asset.
Needless to say, with the chase pack organised they bridged the gap to the front within a lap-and-a-half, and that was the way it stayed for much of the race. When lone athletes attempted a breakaway, Hall shut them down. And as they eased towards T2 it became obvious that this was all going to be about the run.
And what a run.
It was a dream scenario as Jenkins, Densham, Spirig and Norden immediately went to the front and turned up the heat on the rest of the field. One by one the lead group dropped everyone else until there was just six of them left at the midway point. Andrea Hewitt and Sarah Groff were the next to go as Densham turned the screw on the run, leaving four athletes to battle it out for three medals. It was fascinating. Groff managed to find the legs to come back to the front in impressive style as the race went into the last kilometre.
As the pace picked up, Jenkins started to struggle. She slowly lost touch with the leaders as one meter became ten and Team GB’s medal hopes were at a heart-wrenching end. And the front group was down to four again. Groff looked strong but as Spirig went into sprint mode she quickly dropped out the back. Densham tried to go with Spirig but didn’t have the legs and suddenly it was left to Spirig and Norden to battle it out for Gold. The pair sprinted neck and neck down the finishing chute and crossed the line in a dead heat. It was incredible. The officials had to go to a photo and after a couple of minutes of deliberation the gold was awarded to Spirig. It was a truly sensational finish to a fascinating race. Densham took the bronze, with Groff fourth and Jenkins finishing fifth.
“I did give it everything,” Jenkins said following the race. “I just couldn’t hang in there on the last lap. It’s been really hard to get to the start line – I’m amazed I was in contention for that long. I gave it everything and the crowd gave it so much.”
London 2012 Olympic Triathlon, Women’s Race
Top 5 Women
1. Nicola Spirig (SUI) 1:59:48
2. Lisa Norden (SWE) 1:59:48
3. Erin Densham (AUS) 1:59:50
4. Sarah Groff (USA) 2:00:00
5. Helen Jenkins (GBR) 2:00:19