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julie ertel
Julie Ertel finished 19th in Beijing in 2008.
photo: Delly Carr/ITU

Olympic Rewind: Beijing

A look back at the 2008 Olympic Games triathlon


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Beijing • Women, Aug. 18, 2008 - Complete Results

If it weren’t for a bit of cramping on the run, U.S. triathlete Laura Bennett (Boulder, Colo.) would have found her place on the Olympic Games medal stand.

Instead, the 33-year-old will have to wait four more years for another shot at glory after finishing fourth at the Beijing Olympic Games at the Ming Tombs Reservoir.

“I’m pleased with fourth. I started cramping on the third lap and lost touch with third place, so that’s a little disappointing, but I feel I tried to pull out what I could today and I’m really happy with fourth,” Bennett said.

Triathlon fans were able to witness the much-anticipated head-to-head matchup between three-time world champion Australian Emma Snowsill and Portuguese sensation Vanessa Fernandes. But the race was over by the time the run started as Snowsill pulled away from all the other competitors to grab gold in 1 hour, 58 minutes, 27 seconds. Fernandes won the silver in 1:59:34, with Australian Emma Moffat finishing third in 1:59:55.

Bennett’s result in 2:00:21 led the three-person American team, with Sarah Haskins (Colorado Springs, Colo.) finishing 11th in 2:01:22 and Julie Ertel (Irvine, Calif.) finishing 19th in 2:02:39.

The U.S. athletes were among the top five out of the water after the 1.5k swim and were part of a large lead group of close to 15 athletes on the bike. The team strategy of gaining an edge with a breakaway on the bike didn’t come to fruition as this group stayed together throughout the 40k bike course that took the competitors in front of the grandstands, filled with close to 10,000 supporters, six times.

“There was a big group on the bike. I tried to attack on the bike, but the pack kept us in it,” said Haskins. “So it came down to a strong run. I felt good on the run. But 11th place, you know, I can’t complain.”

Ertel said the challenging bike course set the tone for the rest of her race. “It was a hard bike,” she said. “I just got a lower back cramp on the first hill and it was hard for me to recover. It lasted the first three laps of the run. The last lap I felt great. I wish it was a 20k.

“I was still happy with my performance, but the bike was definitely the hardest part today. I knew going in that this wasn’t a course that played to my strengths. I feel I did well. My goal was to stay with that lead pack [on the bike]. I can’t say it was easy but I managed to do that. And then the run, I was kind of out of gas.”

Once the athletes started the 10k run, the lead group began to separate. Snowsill quickly putspace between herself and her pursuers, gaining a 15-second advantage by the time the first of four laps was complete. Bennett, Fernandes and Moffatt led the group in pursuit, with the American pulling into second for much of thesecond lap. Unfortunately, that’s when the cramps set in, and Bennett lost three places, as Fernandes began to find her legs, Moffat gave chase and Juri Ide pulled into fourth.

“I felt great after the swim, getting on the bike and staying with the girls. We all worked thehill quite well. I felt strong and was ready to get out on the run where I knew it was going to come down to,” said Bennett, a first-time Olympian who was team alternate in 2004. “I knew it was going to be fast and was going to take some deep digging to keep with the girls. I did my best to dig and stay with them. A little bit of cramping set me back, but that’s part of racing.”

Bennett was smiling as she entered the stadium for the last time, on the heels of Ide, but out of reach of a medal. She passed the Japanese athlete in the homestretch and maintained her smile across the finish line.

“The whole experience has been fantastic,” said Bennett as she made her way through the post-race throngs of reporters. “We had a great time at the Opening Ceremony. We’re taking in the whole experience and taking in what the Olympics is all about.”


Beijing • Men, Aug. 19, 2008 - Complete Results

Improving on his ninth place finish from Athens four years ago, Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.) led the U.S. with a seventh-place finish at the Ming Tombs Reservoir at the Beijing Olympic Games with a time of 1 hour, 49 minutes 48 seconds.

Jarrod Shoemaker (Maynard, Mass.) placed 18th with a time of 1:50:46, while Matt Reed (Boulder, Colo.) was 32nd in 1:52:30 in the first Olympic Games for each athlete.

Kemper, the only U.S. athlete to compete on all three Olympic teams, tried not to place any extra pressure on himself by having expectations of a top finish. That plan had backfired in Sydney and Athens.

His only expectation this time around? To enjoy himself.

“It was a great day for me. I felt like I was soaring on wings like an eagle. The Lord carried me through. He blessed me so much today,” said Kemper. “My run fitness wasn’t quite there, where I wanted it to be. I think the maximum result would’ve been sixth. I laid it all out there today. I came off the bike in great position. I started the run well. It was a hot one, but I did all I could. That’s all I had.”

The gold went to Jan Frodeno of Germany, who posted a 1:48:53, using a strong sprint to overtake silver medalist Simon Whitfield of Canada down the final stretch. Bevan Docherty of New Zealand won the bronze medal with a time of 1:49:05. Whitfield returns to the medal stand after winning the event at the 2000 Sydney Games, while Docherty was the silver medalist in Athens.

Another hot day put the athletes to the test throughout the 1.5k swim, 40k bike and 10k run event. Kemper came out of the water with the leaders with Shoemaker and Reed exiting near the back of a pack that made up more than half the 55-man field. Soon the main pack was circling the six-loop course with all breakaway attempts pulled back to the group. Reed was among those trying to pull away near the end of the second lap, but his legs just weren’t cooperating.

“I got on the bike in good position, right where I needed to be. I tried to attack the bike asbest as I could, but I didn’t have good legs,” Reed said.

Three athletes were able to break away late in the bike and had a 45 second lead as the run started, but that lead was gone by the time the first 2.5k run lap ended and the sport’s top runners took over. Kemper was among the top 10 throughout the entire run and moved steadily toward the front. Reed, however, struggled.

“I struggled relaxing on the run and I didn’t have the legs to have a good day today,” said Reed, the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion. “It’s something I had worked on and improved on this year. So to have such a bad run was a bit of a surprise.”

Unlike Kemper, Reed had hoped for a much better performance, especially considering his recent races that had him finishing among the best in the world.

“It’s definitely disappointing. I can’t explain why I felt so bad out there today. But you have to play the cards you are dealt.” Reed said. “I struggled all day. Even in the swim I had a lot of trouble, fighting the guys out there. I had to swim pretty hard in the end to catch back up to the lead group.”

Competing in his first Olympic Games, Shoemaker tried not to set his expectations too high and was pleased with his experience.

“I pretty much hit my expectations. I wanted to be in the mix and see what would happen,” said Shoemaker, who was the U23 World Champion in 2005. “My goal for finishing was between seventh and 20th place, so I’m very happy. I was coming on strong at the end, but I was a little too far back coming off the bike. When you’re down 30 seconds, it’s hard to make it up.”

Related Topics

Olympics, 2012 Olympic Games