Erin Densham has produced a sensational performance at Hyde Park in London to win the bronze medal in a dramatic race - that started with a crash and withdrawal of her teammate Emma Moffatt and finished with an amazing sprint after almost two hours of racing.
Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig won the gold in a photo-finish after a 200 metre blistering sprint stride for stride with Sweden’s Lisa Norden.
Densham, who pushed the pace for most of the 10 kilometre run to try and ‘break’ her opposition, gave it everything to the line and fell just metres short of the dream result.
Australian 20 year-old Emma Jackson handled her first Olympic Games superbly to finish eighth after not being able to handle the pace over the final five kilometres.
“It still hasn’t sunk in but I am excited,” Densham said. “When there was four of us left I was thinking ‘there’s only three medals and we (Australian women) have always won a medal at the Olympics’ and that spurred me on.”
Densham pushed the pace for most of the run leg and into the run the lead pack of 22 soon became 11 and then gradually broke up including British World Champion Helen Jenkins unable to handle the Densham surges to finish fifth.
“I knew what kind of finish Nicola and the girls had so I stayed composed early and then tried to break the other girls with surges and then I waited to see what damage I had done.
“I tried to get rid of as many as I could and I didn’t know that I broke Helen but obviously Nicola and Lisa were still there because they are so strong.”
“I tried again to turn the pace up. I wasn’t losing them and it was coming down to a sprint and I gave it everything but they were just way to strong.”
“It was definitely hurting it certainly wasn’t easy.”
Densham saw Moffatt go down and she just managed to avoid the crash but she didn’t know that she was forced to withdraw.
“That’s such a shame I really feel for her. She definitely would have been up there at the finish,” she said when told the news of her teammate who won the bronze at the Beijing Olympics and was pre-selected by Triathlon Australia.
Densham who was 22nd at the Beijing Games was not even thinking about triathlon three years ago.
“It has been a long road from heart surgery and injuries. And then at the start of this year selection was a big drama so I’m even fortunate to have even been on the start line never mind winning a medal.”
For Jackson she knows there will be more Olympics ahead of her.
"To come out at my first Olympics and come eighth I'm happy with that," Jackson said. "I didn't feel fantastic out there but to hang in there and finish eighth with all the girls in front of me so much more experienced is a good feeling."
Race report -
Drama reigned on the start of the women’s triathlon with Australian Beijing bronze medallist Emma Moffatt not completing the first lap of the 7-lap bike leg. She crashed out near Buckingham Palace and was unable to rejoin the race. Shattered with her Olympic dream over, Moffatt was at least unhurt. Several other athletes crashed on the tight corners after overnight rain.
Moffatt, Erin Densham and 20-year-old Emma Jackson came out of the 1500m swim mid pack and looked comfortable. British swim-bike specialist Lucy Hall led a group of six through transition but was without her teammate and World Champion Helen Jenkins.
American Laura Bennett pushed the pace but without the help of Hall, who was selected as a domestique to protect Jenkins the lead 22 athletes soon formed a pack on lap 2 of the bike and it remained unchanged with only minor attacks on the picturesque circuit around London’s Hyde Park.
The majority of the expected challengers for the gold were in the lead pack including Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand.
After the first 1500m of the run, the lead pack of 22 was split to 11. Densham pushed the pace and after lap 1 of 4, she was leading a group of eight.
Midway through the second lap of the run Jackson and American Sarah Groff lost touch and dropped off the pace. Densham however continued to push the pace with Jenkins, Spirig, Hewitt and Swedish star Lisa Norden on her shoulder.
With five kilometres to run there was no doubt the medals would come from the lead five with a two-woman foot race between Jenkins and Densham looking most likely.
At the Sydney World Championship Series race in March Densham won that running battle with Hewitt third. At the next world series race in San Diego Densham pushed the pace but got dropped by Jenkins.
With one lap (2.5kms) to run Groff got back in touch with an anxious wait to see who would make the move or had the legs to run away with it. Densham spent the most time leading with Norden and Spirig driving the pace.
Jenkins dropped to fifth with a Densham surge and then was dropped with 1km to run. Groff soon followed and it was down to three in a race for the medals.
In a sprint to the finish line, Densham just couldn't hold on to her European rivals finishing with bronze. Spirig and Norden provided one of the most exciting finishes of the Games so far, with a photo finish unable to separate them for equal first place.