So close and yet so far, Andrea Hewitt stayed in touch with the leaders for all but the final few kilometres at the London Olympic Games overnight, fading to eventually finish in 6th place on a day when she just had nothing left in her legs.
Kate McIlroy raced strongly for 10th place on her long awaited debut at the Olympic Games while Nicky Samuels never recovered from a poor swim start and sat back on the bike to avoid helping any contenders close the gap to the lead group and Hewitt, the Wanaka athlete eventually finishing 35th.
The gold medal was won in a thrilling sprint finish by Nicola Spirig (SUI) from Lisa Norden (SWE), the two athletes were only separated thanks to a photo finish, with Spirig getting there by a few hundredths of a second, with Erin Densham (AUS) winning bronze.
Hewitt had until that point raced the perfect race, swimming in the main bunch and riding conservatively at or near the front of the field, emerging on the run in the lead group of half a dozen athletes, from which all the medals would come.
“I just didn’t have the energy to keep going and I dropped off near the end. It was a rough swim and a good bike, it was going to be a perfect day but while I was up there for the first half of the run, I just didn’t have the legs today.
“I was in the lead group at the start of the run then it went down to 7, 6 and 5 and unfortunately I just dropped off. I was okay early, there were a few surges early so I sat back to avoid that a bit of tripping that was close to happening, I was staying at the back to keep out of trouble but eventually I just couldn’t hold on any more.”
McIlroy was pleased with her performance in coming home 10th after always being prominent throughout the day.
“I am happy with that to be honest, the run was fast, I didn’t think we worked that hard on the bike but we still had a good gap on the chase group and that helped me. I slowly worked my way through the field on the run after having a bad transition, a problem with my shoes held me up for 5 seconds or so when the tongue on one of my shoes got a bit tangled up. But I finished strongly and I am happy with 10th place.
“There were random bursts on the bike, we had the best bikers in our front group and I wasn’t prepared to do all the work on the front, those girls were biking well but we could see we were gaining each lap so it was a case of sitting in at times and saving my legs for the run.
McIlroy has had her disappointments in the past having to pull out of major championships on the track with injury, finally though she has an Olympic campaign to look back on.
“You always want to win a medal and do better if you can; top ten though is a good effort after what has been a rocky road throughout my career. To actually be here, performing well and finishing in 10th with a body in one piece feels pretty good, it was great.”
Samuels was behind the eight ball after a poor start.
“I was pretty much last to the first buoy; I just haven’t been able to nail the tart of the swim. Once on the bike I didn’t want to do any of the work to bring up any fast runners to the lead group, I just babysat at the back of the group and hopefully help Andrea maintain the right position so that is the way I rode out the race. Essentially it was a case of trying to mess things up and slow the group up.
“The run wasn’t great either, the course was hard on the legs with the camber all the way, my calves are killing me. But I think my race was over after the start of the swim to be honest, from that point it was a case of hoping the other girls were doing well.”
Results highlight the growing depth in the sport, with gold medal favourite Helen Jenkins finishing 5th and other pre race medal hopes Emma Moffatt (AUS; crashing), Paula Findlay (CAN; 52nd), Gwen Jorgenson (USA; 38th), Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI 16th) showing how competitive the sport is now at the major championship events.
London 2012 Olympic Games
Gold Nicola Spirig SUI 1:59:48
Silver Lisa Norden SWE 1:59:48
Bronze Erin DenshamAUS 1:59:50
4 Sarah Groff USA 2:00:00
5 Helen Jenkins GBR 2:00:19
6 Andrea Hewitt NZL 2:00:36
7 Ainhoa Murua ESP 2:00:56
8 Emma Jackson AUS 2:01:16
9 Jessica Harrison FRA 2:01:22
10 Kate McIlroy NZL 2:01:28
35 Nicky Samuels NZL 2:04:48