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Sarah Groff made a move on the run to clinch a fourth-place finish Saturday in London.
photo: Competitive Image

Groff Leads U.S. with Fourth-Place Finish at Olympic Games

U.S. just misses podium in Hyde Park with fourth straight top-four finish

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LONDON — American Sarah Groff surged into medal contention on the final lap of the run and led the United States with a fourth-place finish Saturday at the 2012 Olympic Games women’s triathlon at Hyde Park.

Groff (Hanover, N.H.) recorded a time of exactly 2 hours on the 1,500-meter swim, 43-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course. She was 12 seconds off the pace of gold medalist Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and silver medalist Lisa Norden of Sweden, who both finished in 1:59:48. Spirig was declared the winner in a photo finish, while Australia’s Erin Densham took bronze in 1:59:50.

“My goal going into this race was just to be there with 1,000 meters to go. I was. You know, I’ve got to be proud of that. Fourth is the ‘worst’ position to be in but, at the end of the day, I’m an Olympian. I get to showcase this awesome sport to millions of people. I’m really proud to be on this team. Obviously it would have been better to come home with a medal, but I’m proud of the process and proud of our team,” Groff said.  

Laura Bennett (Boulder, Colo.) was 17th in 2:02:17, while Gwen Jorgensen (Milwaukee, Wis.) was 38th in 2:06:34 after suffering a flat tire on the bike.

With Groff’s fourth-place effort, the U.S. joins Australia as the only nations with a top-four women’s finisher in each Olympic Games triathlon since the sport made its debut in 2000.

A cool morning meant it would be a wetsuit swim in The Serpentine, and Bennett was among a group of seven women — led by Great Britain’s Lucy Hall — to exit the water with roughly a minute lead on the field. The advantage on the bike was short lived, however, as the chase pack, which featured Groff, cut the lead in half after one lap and caught the leaders just before the completion of lap two. From there, a lead group of 22 cyclists stuck together for the remainder of the 43k ride and entered T2 with a lead of more than two minutes on the rest of the field.

Bennett and Groff quickly made their way into the lead pack on the run, but at the 5k mark Groff sat just off the leaders in seventh, while Bennett had slipped to 11th. Groff surged past New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt and Spain’s Ainhoa Murua on the third lap of the run, and as the leaders headed out on the bell lap, Groff sat fifth — three seconds off the lead group of Spirig, Norden, Densham and Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins.

Over the course of the final 2.5k, the determined Groff bridged back up to the leaders, while Jenkins dropped off the pace. The eventual medalists pulled away from Groff over the final few hundred meters to secure their spots on the Olympic Games podium, while Groff, who notched the day’s fifth-fastest run split at 33:52, took an impressive fourth in her Olympic Games debut.

“If you don’t have a kick, you don’t have a kick. I didn’t have it. There’s nothing you can do at that point,” Groff said about the finish. “I guess you hope that somebody blows up or falls or something, but at the end of the day I did what I could. I put it all out there.”

In her second Olympic appearance, Bennett found herself where she wanted to be — in a breakaway on the bike following her usually strong swim. However, the breakaway was relatively brief, and the chase pack, featuring most of the pre-race favorites, merged before the riders hit the two-lap mark of the bike.

“The girls I was with, I’ve never really ridden with. It was definitely unexpected,” Bennett said. “I didn’t feel fantastic all day. You try and keep in touch with it all and figure out what you have, and that was all I had today.”

Jorgensen exited the swim a minute behind the leaders and was down by roughly the same margin after two laps of the bike. At some point on the third lap, she suffered a flat tire, but pushed on after her wheel was replaced at one of the neutral wheel pits available approximately every 1k on the bike course. Following the flat, she came exited T2 more than four minutes off the pace and was never in position to utilize her highly regarded run speed for a charge at the leaders.

“I had a flat, so I had to stop and change it. I wasn’t in the front pack, anyway. I got a little flustered. It never happened to me before. You’ve got to be prepared for everything,” Jorgensen said.

Despite her finish, Jorgensen was appreciative of the thousands of spectators that lined the entirety of the course. “It was awesome. You could hear people cheering all the way around, and it was really awesome to have that many fans out cheering for us. This was really exciting, and it makes me want to keep trying,” Jorgensen said.

U.S. men Manuel Huerta (Miami, Fla.) and Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.) will compete in Hyde Park on Tuesday, Aug. 7 in the 2012 Olympic Games men’s triathlon at 11:30 a.m. locally. The race will air at 6:30 a.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network. Visit usatriathlon.org/london2012 for more information on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team.

2012 Olympic Games Women’s Triathlon – Complete Results
(1,500m swim, 43k bike, 10k run)

1. Nicola Spirig (SUI), 1:59:48
2. Lisa Norden (SWE), 1:59:48
3. Erin Densham (AUS), 1:59:50
4. Sarah Groff (Hanover, N.H.), 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
17. Laura Bennett (Boulder, Colo.), 2:02:17
38. Gwen Jorgensen (Milwaukee, Wis.), 2:06:34

About USA Triathlon

Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon – one of the fastest growing sports in the world – as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. USA Triathlon sanctions 4,000 races and connects with more than 150,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including ITU World Championships, Pan American Games and the Summer Olympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the International Triathlon Union and the United States Olympic Committee.

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