Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig won the closest Olympic women’s triathlon in history on Saturday, pipping Sweden’s Lisa Norden for gold after a dramatic photo finish.
Spirig and Norden were neck-and-neck as they hit the finishing tape in one hour, 59 minutes and 48 seconds after a desperate sprint to the line, following a gruelling 1.5km swim, 43km bike ride and 10km run around the picturesque Hyde Park course.
Australia’s Erin Densham, just two-hundredths of a second behind, took bronze. British favourite Helen Jenkins dropped off the pace in the final lap and finished fifth, with America’s Sarah Groff fourth. Spirig, 30, had a nervous wait before she was confirmed as Switzerland’s second Olympic triathlon champion, after Brigitte McMahon’s win – by two-hundredths of a second – at Sydney 2000.
“Crossing the finish line, I had a feeling that I won but I wasn’t really sure so I really needed an official to tell me and it took a few minutes – they were really hard,” said the three-time European champion. “As an athlete, this is the highest I can reach – Olympic gold medal is just the dream of almost every athlete. It’s just amazing and it still hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m a bit speechless.”
In the home straight at the end, to deafening roars, Spirig inched ahead but Norden came back and the exhausted pair were all but inseparable at the line.
“We tried to put on a good show for you guys,” laughed Norden afterwards. “Nicola’s an incredible sprinter and I’ve never been so close to her. I was just surprised to find so much energy.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.