Photo courtesy of Delly Carr

This year’s Olympic’s race had everything, from breakaways in the swim, spills on the bike and the tightest of sprint finishes that the naked eye could not decipher. With the assistance of technology to decide the winner, it was Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig who ended up on top of the podium, but recorded the same time as Lisa Norden of Sweden, who claimed silver. Australia’s, Erin Densham, finished just two seconds behind for the bronze medal in arguably one of the best triathlon finishes we have ever seen.


The cool waters of the Serpentine in Hyde Park warranted a wetsuit swim for this year’s Olympic battle. Early in the 1.5km swim there were notable swimmers making their move. American, Laura Bennett was the first to make her move, closely followed by Lucy Hall, Claudia Rivas, Line Jensen and Pamela Oliveira.

It wasn’t long until the twenty year old, and one of the strongest swimmers on the circuit, Hall, moved into the lead. Hall was essentially in the race to help and act as a domestique for her team mate, and one of the race favourites, Helen Jenkins. Later in the swim, it was Hall, Jensen and Oliveira who broke away slightly, with four following close, and the rest of the pack chasing their big lead. Meanwhile, Jenkins remained in the chase pack.

Photo courtesy of Delly Carr

Hall was the first to exit the water in 18:16, with Jensen, Mariko Adachi, Oliveira, Rivas, Bennett and Jessica Harrison following all within 23seconds of Hall’s lead. The rest of the women in the chase pack were down on Hall’s lead by over a minute.

The bike course was seven laps, covering 43km, and took in Hyde Park, Constitution Hill and Buckingham Palace. While the bike course was fast, it became technical at times as athletes had to maneuver their way through tight corners, speed bumps and slippery roads as a result of the rain the night before and early misty morning conditions. Not long into the bike leg, and the streets of London pulled down what would be the first of many on the bike. In scenes reminiscent of Braveheart, women kept falling, and sliding along the harsh ground. Some of the women managed to regain composure for the rest of the race, but ultimately, their race for the podium was over. Beijing Olympic’s bronze medalist, and one of the race favourites, Australia’s Emma Moffatt, was one of the unfortunate athletes who hit the bitumen and sadly had to withdraw from the race. Obviously disappointed with the outcome, at least physically, it appeared that there were no significant or long term injuries, other than scratches and bruises.

Staying upright and not effected by the crashes around them, the main chase pack of 22 women, caught the leaders. The race favourites were now all together, and it looked like, bar any more crashes, this was how the group was going to stay for the remainder of the bike course. The group included our chosen favourites, Jenkins, Erin Densham, Andrea Hewitt, plus others we thought to look out for, Lisa Norden and Emma Jackson. Over the following laps, the group put more time into the rest of the chasers. Spirig with her dominance on the bike spent a lot of time at the front of the group, as did Hall.

Photo courtesy of Delly Carr

Towards the end of the bike course, there was a definite easing of speed as the women prepared themselves for a foot race. “The atmosphere was incredible. Crowds were lining the whole course, 10-15 people deep. The noise was intense, so loud!” Described our roving reporter, Laura Siddall. As each woman jumped off their bike and flew through transition, the crowd got louder. Onto the run there was a group of twelve who quickly moved away from the rest of the pack. Densham, Jenkins, Spirig, Norden, Ainhoa Murua, Sarah Groff, Hewitt, Jackson, Harrison, Bennett and Anja Dittmer. After the first 2.5km lap, three of the women had notably dropped off the pace, and Jackson was hanging onto the back of the pack.

About 4km into the run, Jackson lost touch with the lead group, and it was down to seven. Groff and Murua also started to lose contact, and then Hewitt. There were now four left in the lead, Densham, Spirig, Norden and Jenkins. Then late in the run Jenkins’ form started to falter. She was looking tired. (Our run expert, Mel Vandewater takes us through the tell tale signs of when athletes started to drop back from the lead runners here).

The surprise change in play was Groff. Somehow she had found the turbo button and launched herself forward to be running back ahead of Hewitt and was sitting back in fifth place just behind the lead group, and in an impressive display of grit and determination, it wasn’t long until she was back within the pack. It was now down to five women with about one kilometer to go.

Photo courtesy of Delly Carr

The lead was changing, and no one was giving an inch to another. Densham made several attempts to move ahead of the women, and at one of the tight corners catapulted herself ahead, but her move was quickly answered by the others. “Norden was looking the most comfortable just tucked in at the back of the group” described Siddall. Jenkins was the first to drop back, and the three others were pulling away from Groff as well. Running within each others shadows, it was Spirig who started to edge away from Densham and Norden. These three were giving everything they had. It looked like Spirig was going to keep pulling away, but it was Norden with all the answers as Densham couldn’t hold the pace. It was going to come down to the wire.

Spirig and Norden screamed towards the finish line both crossing at the exact same time (to the naked eye). The crowd was going crazy. No one knew who had won gold. It came down to a video replay and the officials deemed Spirig to have won the race with her torso marginally beating Norden to the punch. An amazing race by an amazing athlete. Spirig’s preparation for the Olympics could be described as going against the grain, which is hardly surprising from her coach, Brett Sutton. While most athletes were concentrating on sprint distance events in the lead up, Spirig was claiming line honors at Antwerp 70.3 just two weeks before this event.

Photo courtesy of Delly Carr

Norden, for the second time in her career had come second based on a photo finish, however, she was still “pretty stoked” with her silver medal. Fresh and in form, Norden’s finishing line sprint was made of impressive power. Densham claimed the bronze medal and in response to her thoughts about the finish line, she exclaimed “I just won a bronze medal. I’m pretty happy!” In a lead up that was phenomenal and surrounded by immense pressure, Densham’s performance was nothing short of incredible. She once again put Australia on the triathlon podium at the Olympics.

A special mention must be made to Sarah Groff for her fourth position. Her comeback during the run was incredible to witness.




 Top 10 Results

Pos First Name Last Name Country Time  Swim T1  Bike T2  Run
1 Nicola Spirig SUI 1:59:48 0:19:23 0:00:39 1:05:33 0:00:29 0:33:41
2 Lisa Norden SWE 1:59:48 0:19:17 0:00:46 1:05:33 0:00:29 0:33:42
3 Erin Densham AUS 1:59:50 0:19:24 0:00:39 1:05:33 0:00:29 0:33:42
4 Sarah Groff USA 2:00:00 0:19:20 0:00:36 1:05:40 0:00:31 0:33:52
5 Helen Jenkins GBR 2:00:19 0:19:19 0:00:43 1:05:35 0:00:31 0:34:10
6 Andrea Hewitt NZL 2:00:36 0:19:28 0:00:41 1:05:26 0:00:29 0:34:29
7 Ainhoa Murua ESP 2:00:56 0:19:21 0:00:39 1:05:37 0:00:31 0:34:47
8 Emma Jackson AUS 2:01:16 0:19:24 0:00:41 1:05:32 0:00:29 0:35:06
9 Jessica Harrison FRA 2:01:22 0:18:39 0:00:43 1:06:16 0:00:31 0:35:13
10 Kate McIlroy NZL 2:01:28 0:19:31 0:00:41 1:05:26 0:00:36 0:35:14

About The Author

Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP

Serious about what I do, but don’t take myself too seriously

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