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Nicola Spirig wins Olympic Triathlon Gold in a photo finish

Paula Findlay puts forth a courageous and inspiring finish.

Today’s Women’s Olympic Triathlon will be memorable on two fronts: the spectacular sprint finish for the gold medal, and the heart wrenching finish of Edmonton’s Paula Findlay.

Great Britain’s Lucy Hall exited the water first (18:17) to make sure she was ahead to provide support for British teammate Helen Jenkins. Canadian’s Paula Findlay and Kathy Tremblay were approximately 90 seconds down from the leaders once they completed the 1500 m swim.

During the 43 km bike, nothing much was decided. But two contenders, Emma Moffatt and Tremblay crashed while turning a slippery corner and dropped out of the race. Tremblay attempted to tough it out but her day ended after three laps of the bike. A lead pack of twenty plus women ended up heading into T2 and out on the run.

The 10 km run essentially came down to four women. Australia’s Erin Densham, Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig, Sweden’s Lisa Norden, American Sarah Groff, and the aforementioned Jenkins.

In the closing stages of the run, Jenkins fought hard in front of hometown crowd but she fell off the pace when the rest of the lead group stepped on the gas. Groff, who did well to catch up to the lead runners, was next to fall off the pace.

Upon entering the long finish chute, it was clear that the medals would be allocated among three women – Densham, Spirig, and Norden. Spirig then made her surge and shook free of Densham and seemed to do the same to Norden.

However, within metres of the finish line Spirig started to fade and Norden gained on her to produce a classic dead heat photo finish. The gold medal was awarded to Spirig (1:59:48), Norden got the silver (1:59:48), and Densham hung on for bronze (1:59:50).

Findlay, who could have easily dropped out of the race after being well back after the bike, and being in obvious discomfort during the run, toughed it out to finish in 52nd (2:12:09). She also won the hearts of Canadians with her inspiring and tearful finish, where she kept saying “I’m sorry” to those lining the finish chute. She may not have won a medal, but those images and video will undoubtedly motivate many of those watching to take up the sport of triathlon.

“Sadder than I’ve ever been. Thanks for the love. Life goes on,” tweeted Findlay after the race.

The fight for first and Findlay’s finish will go down as one of the most memorable moments of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Top 10 Women

1. SUI SPIRIG Nicola 1:59:48.00

2. SWE NORDEN Lisa 1:59:48.00

3. AUS DENSHAM Erin 1:59:50.00 +0:02

4. USA GROFF Sarah 2:00:00.00 +0:12

5. GBR JENKINS Helen 2:00:19.00 +0:31

6. NZL HEWITT Andrea 2:00:36.00 +0:48

7. ESP MURUA Ainhoa 2:00:56.00 +1:08

8. AUS JACKSON Emma 2:01:16.00 +1:28

9. FRA HARRISON Jessica 2:01:22.00 +1:34

10. NZL McILROY Kate 2:01:28.00 +1:40

52. CAN Paula Findlay 2:12:09.00 +12:21

DNF Kathy Tremblay