US triathlete Gwen Jorgensen produced the perfect race to win the Olympic gold. She stayed with her rivals on the bike before surging clear of defending champion Nicola Spirig-Hug of Switzerland on the run.
Jorgensen has led the field in women’s triathlon over the last two years but usually wins her races by chasing down the stronger cyclists during the 10km run. In Rio, she gave her all on the hilly 40km bike course and defeated Spirig-Hug in the final discipline to win America’s first gold in the sport since it was introduced to the Games in 2000.
“I’m just really happy after everything we’ve done after these past four years. I never think you have a perfect race, it was a fun race for sure,” said Jorgensen. “Nicola was playing some games and it was fun to do that. Hopefully it made it more exciting for the fans too. I knew they were going to try to break away from me on the bike section. I didn’t want to be in that situation where I had to claw back time.”
After a sea swim off Copacabana Beach, a group of 18 quickly formed on the bike leg, including all the favourites. Spirig-Hug and Jorgensen rolled into the second transition together. Strong runner Jorgensen finally made her move with an injection of pace at the 8km mark that immediately took her clear and allowed her to enjoy her run up the finishing chute with a beaming smile.
Switzerland’s Spirig-Hug held on to silver and became the first woman to win two Olympic medals in the sport. She described competing with Jorgensen during the run: “She was leading first and then she left me in front and I was leading in the headwind. There was a bit of mind games. In the third lap nobody wanted to lead. I knew she is an extremely strong runner, so I had to try everything, and I think I did all I could. I’m very happy, she deserves gold. In the end she was stronger and faster.”
Great Britain team-mates and training partners Non Stanford and Vicky Holland battled it out for bronze, with Holland taking it. Holland had to give her all in a race against one of her close friends: “I just kept thinking: ‘It’s going to be one of us, going to be one of us’. I had to put out of my mind the fact that we are housemates because that’s not the way you race. We are good friends but that’s no excuse not to sprint. The first thing I said to her was ‘I’m so sorry’.”
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