Australias Emma Snowsill lived up to all the pre-race hype to win the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games womens triathlon gold medal with a blistering run leg in the scorching heat at the Ming Tomb Reservoir triathlon course.
Coming down on the last lap I had to throw in whatever I had left, said the diminutive Aussie. Theres nothing like running scared. I put every ounce of energy into this.
Snowsills winning time of 1:58:27 was an amazing 66 seconds ahead of joint pre-race favourite Portugals Vanessa Fernandes, who took silver, and 88 seconds in front of another Australian Emma Moffatt, who finished strongly for the bronze.
A relatively slow swim time of 20:19, led out by Laura Bennett (USA), set the race up for a large front pack bike ride. All the favourites, excluding Nicola Spirig (Switzerland), Lisa Norden (Sweden), Kate Allen (Austria) and Hollie Avil (Great Britain), took positions in the big pack.
Spirig was able to bridge the gap on the bike, breaking away from the first chasing pack and taking Ai Ueda (Japan) with her. The young Avil, however, did not look her usual self and pulled out of the bike a few laps in.
Snowsill maintained great position at the front of the 20-athlete pack throughout the bike course, while Moffatt sat at the other end, staying out of trouble. All of the other main players: Fernandes, Bennett, Spirig, Daniela Ryf and Magali DiMarco (Switzerland) and Andrea Hewitt (New Zealand) looked comfortable.
Mari Rabie (South Africa) and the Julie Ertel (USA) were the exceptions. Rabie was dropped by the lead pack and Ertel struggled up the hill at the back of the course each lap before being tailed off the last time around.
Heading into the last lap the lead group had 1:57 on the pursuers who were having trouble organising a meaningful chase. It got worse for the group when riders fell as the group turned into the Reservoir.
Lauren Groves (Canada), Lenka Zemanova, (Czech), and Irina Abysova (Russia) abandoned the race due to this incident. While Allen, the 2004 Athens gold medallist, drove the fourth chasing pack in vain. In contrast, it was plain sailing for the lead pack as they headed into transition.
Snowsill, usually lethargic through transition, racked and slipped her shoes on in one motion and quickly moved into the lead in the first metres of the run. Fernandes did not transition as well and entered the run course with ground to make up on Australias super-powered sparrow.
Behind Snowsill, the best of the chasers were: Bennett, Hewitt, Fernandes and surprise packet Juri Ide (Japan) who revelled in the stifling conditions. These chasers seemed to gain on Snowsills small lead heading out of the Reservoir, but this disappeared by the first u-turn at 1.25km, as Snowsill started taking more ground.
This gap only increased in the remaining portion of the runSnowsills lead opening up 100m, then 250m at the end of laps two and three. The race now became one for the minor medals.
The only problem for the three-time world champion Snowsill came when she ran down the wrong side of the barricade near the end of the third lap. She quickly righted this mishap with a swift hurdle and went straight back into her stride. The race was hers.
Coming down the finish line an emotional Snowsill, who missed the Australian team for the Athens Olympics, took time to soak up the affections of the crowd and draped herself in an Australian flag.
Speaking of how she maintained her head in the heat of Olympic competition, Snowsill said, I tried to maintain the attitude its a swim, bike, run race and the Olympics rings come afterwards. Her mindset worked.
Joint favourite and 20-time world cup winner Fernandes held on for second. She was happy with her silver medal. For me this medal is like the gold medal, Fernandes said. It means a lot for me because a little Portuguese country begins in triathlon too. I think it is good for Portugal.
While the fast finishing Moffatt overtook Bennett and Ide for a bronze medal at her first Olympics. I started my strategy of pacing myself, she said. My plan worked. You have to be a smart racer at this level. This course is very challenging.
And how does Snowsill feel about being the new Olympic champion? I dont think it has sunk in yet, she said. You pray for this sort of day.
Beijing 2008 Olympic Games - Women’s Triathlon
Gold - Emma Snowsill (AUS)
Silver - Vanessa Fernandes (POR)
Bronze - Emma Moffatt (AUS)
4th - Laura Bennett (USA)
5th - Juri Ide (JPN)
6th - Nicola Spirig (SUI)
7th - Daniela Ryf (SUI)
8th - Andrea Hewitt (NZL)
9th - Kiyomi Niwata (JPN)
10th - Debbie Tanner (NZL)
|Results: Elite Women|