LONDON, Aug 4: Nicola Spirig of Switzerland won the gold medal in a photo finish at the Olympic women’s triathlon on Saturday, holding off Lisa Norden of Sweden in a dramatic end to the race.

Spirig and Norden were neck-and-neck as they hit the finishing tape in 1hr 59min 48sec after a desperate sprint to the line following a gruelling 1.5km swim, 43km bike ride and 10km run around the picturesque Hyde Park course.

Australia’s Erin Densham, just two-hundredths of a second behind, took bronze. British favourite Helen Jenkins dropped off the pace in the final lap and finished fifth, with America’s Sarah Groff fourth.

Spirig, 30, a former world junior champion, is Switzerland’s second Olympic triathlon gold-medallist after Brigitte McMahon won the inaugural event at Sydney 2000.

“I had a feeling but I wasn’t really sure,” Spirig said when asked if she knew she had won the gold medal. “I really needed an official to tell me. It took a few minutes and those minutes were really hard.”

She added: “As an athlete, this is the highest I can reach — Olympic gold medal is just the dream of almost every athlete. It’s just amazing and it still hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m a bit speechless.”

Norden and Spirig were part of the leading group in the final transition to the run.

The pair stayed in the pack at the front throughout the 10-kilometre run, which saw competitors finish the gruelling event with four laps of the 2.5-kilometre course in the famous park and past landmarks like Buckingham Palace. Thousands of spectators lined the route, with fans not needing tickets to watch the triathlon events at the London Games.

Spirig appeared to have wrapped up victory 20 metres out, but Norden — grimacing with the effort — chased down her opponent over the final few steps and only just missed stealing gold by the tiniest of margins.

Top-ranked women’s triathlete Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand was sixth, just over 36 seconds behind the winning time. —Agencies

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