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Olympic Rewind: Athens
A look back at the 2004 Olympic Games triathlon
U.S. elite triathlete Susan Williams became a media darling when she overcame high temperatures and a crash on the bike to win the bronze medal in the women's triathlon at the 2004 Olympic Games in the Athens municipality of Vouliagmeni.
Williams (Littleton, Colo.), once considered a long shot to make the 2004 Olympic team, put the crown on her Cinderella story by finishing third to Austria's Kate Allen and Australia's Loretta Harrop. Allen won in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 43 seconds, thanks to an amazing 10k run of 33:48, which she used to pass leader Harrop in the final meters of the race. Harrop finished in 2:04:50 and Williams' time was 2:05:08.
Williams' medal was the first ever won by the United States in the Olympic triathlon. Triathlon made its Olympic debut in Sydney, Australia, in 2000.
Interviewers from the "Today Show"and many local NBC affiliates have been touched by Williams' story. She participated in the Top 10 list on the "Late Show with David Letterman."
"It was the race of my life. I'm thrilled. I was the dark horse to even make the team and to wind up with a medal is a tremendous honor," Williams said. "The heat didn't bother me. It really is a drier heat and I kept myself pretty wet and stayed cool."
Williams' teammates did not have it as easy. Barb Lindquist (Alta, Wyo.), one of the pre-race favorites, was third out of the water androde with Williams on the bike after Williams crashed into the padded barriers on a sharp turn. But she fell back on the run and finished ninth.
"Barb, bless her heart, waited for me," Williams said. "I think riding together helped both of us."
"The swim was tough for me today. I swam hard to keep up with Sheila (Taormina) and Loretta and it took something out of me," Lindquist said. "I just didn't have any legs on the bike. But still, I had a good race."
Taormina (Livonia, Mich.), the reigning world champion, was in second place coming out of the swim and shared the lead with Harrop on the bike, but slowed down on the run due to hamstring cramps. Taormina dropped back and rode the last lap of the bike with Williams and Lindquist. As they headed into transition, Taormina told her teammates to "go win some medals."
Taormina, a three-time Olympian, finished 23rd and after the race, reiterated that it had been her last.
"It's fun, but it keeps me from doing too many things that I enjoy," she said. "I have a lot of speaking engagements. I want to give back to my sponsors, the people who have supported me. I want to get a camper and cruise the country going to expos."
Williams was a favorite to make the Olympic triathlon team in 2000 when she found out she was pregnant shortly before the second Olympic qualifying event. She named her daughter "Sydney" and calls her "my gold medal from 2000."
Athens • Men, Aug. 26, 2004 - Complete Results
U.S. elite triathlete Hunter Kemper had the fastest 10k run split of the day in 31 minutes, 52 seconds en route to a ninth-place finish and his teammate Andy Potts had the fastest 1.5k swim in 17:49 in the men's Olympic triathlon in the Athens municipality of Vouliagmeni.
But New Zealand's Hamish Carter and Bevan Docherty hammered the hill on the bike and won the gold and silver medals, respectively. Switzerland's Sven Riederer was third. Carter finished in 1:51:07. Docherty was second in 1:51:15 and Riederer was third in 1:51:33.
"I was proud of what I could do today," said Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.) who moved up more than 10 places with his run. "The bike ride didn't go well for me. I felt OK out of the water, but just never could get going on the bike. "The run for me was real solid. I gave all I had."
Kemper used a final sprint to get past Australia's Simon Thompson as the finish line neared. He also defeated his rival Simon Whitfield, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist from Canada, who finished 11th.
After his swift swim, Potts (Princeton, N.J.) was also a victim of the killer bike course, which at its worst had a grade of around 18 percent. Both Kemper and Potts rode with a large second pack that never made up much ground on the lead group that included Carter, Docherty and Riederer.
"This is the best sporting day of my life, bar none," said Potts, who went on to finish 22nd. "The results may not have been what I wanted, but that doesn't take away from my experience in Athens."
Victor Plata (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), the third member of the U.S. team, had a good swim and rode in the pack with Kemper and Potts for a lap before falling back.
"It unfolded exactly the way I expected it to," Plata said. "I had a great swim, but lost contact on the bike on the first hill. That was the race right there."
Australian Greg Bennett, fiancée of U.S. elite triathlete Laura Reback (North Palm Beach, Fla.), had one of the most exciting runs of the day, and pulled into fourth place, finishing eight seconds behind Riederer.