Aileen Reid finishes triathlon in highly credible 21st place

Gwen Jorgensen eases to victory - Nicola Spring takes silver ahead of Vicky Holland

Ireland’s Aileen Reid finishes in 21st position. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ireland’s Aileen Reid finishes in 21st position. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

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Four years after the closest finish in Olympic triathlon history - Rio de Janeiro has just witnessed the most convincing.

Gwen Jorgensen, the 30 year-old American and already utterly dominant in the event, controlled the run as expected, breaking clear towards the end of the 10km run to win by 40 seconds from Nicola Spirig from Switzerland - the gold medal winner in London four years ago.

Ireland’s Aileen Reid finished a highly credible 21st in the 55-woman just under five minutes back, after making up some considerable ground over the 10km run: more importantly it brought some redemption for the 34 year-old Derry woman, who crashed twice off her bike in London four years ago, and ended up 43rd.

In that race, in 2012, Spirig was given the gold medal after a photo finish with Lisa Norden from Sweden, who ended up 16th here: Spirig did manage to stay with Jorgensen for the first three of the four-lap running loop, before the American put her foot down, breaking the Swiss woman in a near instant.

Ran under cloudy conditions the course was no less testing, nor indeed spectacular - starting and finishing alongside Copacabana Fort, with a tough bike loop in the hilly surrounding terrain. Still, Jorgensen’s time of 1:56:16 was impressive, Spirig taking silver in 1:56:56.

Reid was placed 31st after the swim, 18 seconds behind the lead pack: after losing a little more ground on the bike ride, reaching transition two in 36th, she then blasted one of the fastest opening laps, the 12th best of the entire field over the first 2.5km, and with that moved into 28th. She continued to pass runners all the way to the line, clearly throwing everything at it as she crossed the line, finishing in 2:01:14.

She covered the 10km run in 35:48, the ninth fastest of all, a brilliant way to finish off her race.

The race for bronze was a lot more exciting, as the British pair of Non Stanford and Vicky Holland battled it out over the 10km run: close friends, housemates and training partners, Holland managed to break clear just before the line, grabbing bronze in 1:57:01, just three seconds ahead of Stanford.

“We have always said that the advantage we have going into races is that we know each other so well,” said Holland. “We are our own little team. We know everything about each other, and we know we will help each other. But we also know when it comes to the run, it is a race. And then it is about who gets to the line first, not, ‘I am not going to run this pace because it will be better for Non’. We are absolutely racing other.”

Jorgensen, meanwhile, looked utterly imperious: a flat tire ruined her chances in London 2012, and she finished 38th, yet she has dominated the last three years, two years undefeated in the World Triathlon series, while also winning the Rio test event title in 2015.

Few women are faster on their feet than Jorgensen, and so it proved here.

Picked up in US Triathlon’s collegiate recruitment program, Jorgensen’s ill-luck in London didn’t put her off, and instead she has gone on an incredible 13-race winning streak.

Spirig’s journey since her London gold medal has been also unique, she’s given birth to her first child (with fellow Olympic triathlete husband Reto Hug), and then returned to racing.

She appeared no less happy with silver on this occasion, nor indeed should she.

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