USA’s Gwen Jorgensen has been crowned Olympic champion here in Rio today after an epic battle with reigning champion Nicola Spirig of Switzerland. There would also be another medal for the British team, with Gloucester’s Vicky Holland outpacing her housemate Non Stanford on the finishing straight.
The 1.5km swim kicked-off in waves bigger and choppier than the men’s race on Thursday, and the first three out were Spain’s Carolina Routier, USA’s Katie Zafares and Mari Rabie of South Africa. All the contenders were in the large lead pack of 31, including Gwen, the Brits of Non Stanford and Vicky Holland, plus Bermuda’s Flora Duffy and reigning Olympic champion Nicola Spirig.
The hills and frenetic pace was pushed on the 40km bike leg by Spirig of Switzerland, Xterra off-road world champ Flora Duffy and GB’s Non Stanford, with the lead pack of 31 was halved by lap 2 of the bike. Brit Helen Jenkins had been dropped to 55secs back.
With Gwen Jorgensen also taking turns at the front the leaders were playing with danger allowing a runner of Jorgensen’s stature to stay in contention. Simply, she needed to be dropped before the run.
At the end of lap six that lead pack was still a pack and the chase group of Jenkins and co. was over two minutes back. The Welsh athlete’s Olympic dream was over.
Onto the 10km run and Jorgensen and Spirig were soon in front, a showdown for the ages between the reigning Olympic champion and the new superstar of the sport.
The battle would continue throughout the 10km, with Spirig – coached by famed trainer and tactician Brett Sutton – on the shoulder of Gwen throughout. The Brits of Stanford and Holland would now be battling for bronze against Emma Moffatt and Barbara Riveros Diaz.
Spirig took control of the pace after 5km but still nothing could separate the athletes. There was plenty of talk between the two (more of which when we find out later) but the move by Jorgensen came after the bell of the final run lap and it quickly proved decisive. The long loping stride of the American has broken Spirig and America’s first Olympic triathlon gold medal was in touching distance.