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Hanover's Sarah True drops out of triathlon, Jorgensen takes gold for U.S.

August 20. 2016 3:57PM
Sarah True of Hanover competing at the Elite Woman 2015 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Chicago in this 2015 file photo. (Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) — Gwen Jorgensen produced the perfect race to win the Olympic women’s triathlon gold on Saturday, the American unusually staying with her rivals on the bike before surging clear of defending champion Nicola Spirig-Hug on the run.

Jorgensen has dominated the swim-bike-sport over the last two years but usually wins her races by chasing down the stronger bikers during the 10-kilometer run.

On Saturday, however, she gave as good as she got on the hilly 40-kilometer bike course and broke the challenge of 34-year-old Spirig-Hug on the run to win America’s first gold in the sport since it was introduced to the Games in 2000.

Switzerland’s Spirig-Hug, who has had a baby since her photo-finish victory in London, held on to take silver and become the first woman to win two Olympic medals in the sport.

British teammates Non Stanford and Vicky Holland, who live and train together in Leeds and are great friends, battled it out for bronze, with Holland just taking it.

Sarah True, of Hanover, N.H., injured her quadriceps during the swim and struggled on the bicycle portion of the race. She was lapped out of the race in her second Olympics appearance.

"Unfortunately, I suffered from a quad cramp coming out of the water on to the beach. I felt progressively worse through the first transition, and it eventually I cramped so badly on the hills that I was forced to retire from the race. I am disappointed that I could not finish the race today and that my 2016 Olympic experience ended this way," True said.

Jorgensen’s victory, following Briton Alistair Brownlee’s successful defense of the men’s title, means that the sport’s reputation for upset Olympic champions has been firmly put to bed.

It was also a long overdue gold for the country that invented the sport after the United States had previously managed only Susan Williams’ bronze in 2004 since it joined the Olympic party in 2000.

After a choppy sea swim off Copacabana Beach a group of 18 quickly formed on the bike leg, including all the favorites.

Everyone in the field knew that if Jorgensen remained in that pack going into the run it would be next to impossible to beat her.

However, despite occasional digs by her chief rivals on the main climb on the eight-lap 40-kilometer course, the American sat in looking comfortable and nobody seemed prepared to put it on the line to push the pace.

Spirig-Hug eventually tried to make a break but she got no help and was duly reeled in and they all rolled into the second transition together.

It was an unfamiliar sight in a major triathlon as Jorgensen is invariably cruising through the field in the early stages of the run and the vastly-experienced Spirig-Hug seemed to be getting under the American’s skin as they exchanged words and clashed arms heading into the final lap.

Jorgensen did not seem to be enjoying the head-to-head but removed herself from it with an injection of pace at the 8-kilometer mark that immediately took her clear and allowed her to enjoy her run up the finishing chute with a beaming smile.

Four years ago, Spirig-Hug clipped Sweden’s Lisa Norden in a photo-finish but this time she was comfortably clear of the fast-finishing British duo, with Holland collecting the country’s third triathlon medal of the Games following the Brownlee brothers’ 1-2 in the men’s race.

Fabienne Saint-Louis, the 22-year-old from Mauritius who made the start line despite being diagnosed with cancer nine months ago and undergoing chemotherapy, dropped out during the bike leg.