Photo courtesy of Delly Carr

We witnessed one of the most amazing finishes in triathlon history at The 2012 London Olympic Games. Nicola Spirig and Lisa Norden’s sprint for the line, could only be decided by a photo finish! I was most interested in the run leg – it was pivotal.

The 10km run leg started with a group of approximately ten off the bike. We were expecting Andrea Hewitt (NZL), Erin Densham (AUS), Helen Jenkins (GB), Nicola Spirig (SUI) and Lisa Norden (SWE) to feature in the latter stages, purely base on recent form.

But, one by one, they dropped pace, until there were four. I was confidently predicting, as it unfolded, who would go the distance. How? It was in their running form.


There were two main observations:

  1. oscilation (bobbing up and down) and;
  2. pelvic tuck (or lack of and therefore sitting).

When I critique runner’s technique, I am looking at how efficient their body position is to maximise muscle recruitment and generate power. Basically, if you get the body in good alignment, ie. up tall, pelvic tuck, forward lean, you will have more chance of switching on the muscles of the core/glutes. They are crucial to keeping the hips level and utilising the glutes, hamstrings and calves for stability and power. In addition, we also need to be able to open up the hips for the legs to extend back and therefore better swing through and knee drive. In summary, all of this means, more power for that inevitable powerful sprint finish, as was evident in the finishing chute.

Jenkins’ form suggested she was getting tired. She started to “sit.” I observed by her bum pushing out, and her pelvis was then more tilted. A lot of muscles attach to the pelvis, and like I said above, a lot of those muscles are crucial to good running. A similar thing started happening to Hewitt, who ordinarily has quite a curve in her lower back, but if it becomes more curved she loses pace considerably.

So the women rounded the corner into the finish chute and admittedly my money (and my heart) was on Densham. But, in truth the girls who worked on the track and had that specific speed, would always have a better “kick” if it came to a sprint finish.  Spirig raced in the 5000m at the Swiss National Titles in July this year and recored a time of 16:14 – impressive.

Norden now works with Darren Smith. She previously worked under Brett Sutton, so she also has him to thank for developing her speed. Interestingly enough, Spirig is currently coached by Sutton. Many are aware of his infamous 800m on the track repeats.

So in summary, it was form and specific training in speed work that decided their fate.

About The Author


Former professional triathlete
Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy)
Level 1 Run Technique (ERA)
Level 1 Athletics Australia Accredited Coach
Foundations of Fitness Instruction Certified (AFN)

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