Spirig wins women’s triathlon gold at Olympics

Photo finish needed to separate Swiss athlete from Sweden’s Norden

15:37 August 4, 2012

London: Nicola Spirig of Switzerland won the gold medal in a photo finish at the Olympic women’s triathlon on Saturday, holding off Lisa Norden of Sweden in a dramatic end to the race.

Spirig claimed gold in 1 hour, 59.48 seconds. The runners were given the same time, but Spirig was declared the winner on a photo finish.

Erin Densham of Australia took bronze on the course through Hyde Park in central London in 1:59.50.

Spirig initially pulled away from the other two in the last 50 metres but only just held off a fast-finishing Norden for the gold right on the line.

All three medallists fell to the ground after crossing the line, exhausted by the late sprint for podium positions following two hours of lung-bursting swimming, cycling and running.

Sarah Groff of the United States was fourth, with Britain’s home favourite Helen Jenkins, the reigning world champion, fifth.

Norden and Spirig were part of the leading group in the final transition to the run following a 1,500-metre swim and a 43-kilometre (26.7-mile) bike ride.

The pair stayed in the pack at the front throughout the 10-kilometre run, which saw competitors finish the gruelling event with four laps of the 2.5-kilometre course in the famous park and past landmarks like Buckingham Palace. Thousands of spectators lined the route, with fans not needing tickets to watch the triathlon events at the London Games.

Spirig appeared to have wrapped up victory 20 metres out, but Norden — grimacing with the effort — chased down her opponent over the final few steps and only just missed stealing gold by the tiniest of margins.

Spirig’s success was Switzerland’s first medal of the games.

Top-ranked women’s triathlete Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand was sixth, just over 36 seconds behind the winning time.