The story of the day was the battle between Laura Bennett and Sarah Haskins for the final U.S. Olympic spot.
Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins solidified herself as a pre-Olympic medal favorite by winning, while Australia’s Erin Densham made her case for Olympic selection with a second-place finish at today’s ITU World Triathlon Series in San Diego. The United States’ Laura Bennett earned the final position on the American Olympic team (Sarah Groff and Gwen Jorgensen have already qualified) by out-battling 2008 Olympian Sarah Haskins to finish third.
The day kicked off with a two-lap 1500m swim in Mission Bay. The lead swimmers failed to build a big dent on the competition, making for a large lead group heading into T1. Jenkins was first out of the bay. The dual between Haskins and Bennett started early with the two exiting the water in second and third positions, respectively. As the lead group headed out onto the eight-lap 40K bike course it quickly became evident that making the front pack on the bike would be key. Both Bennett and Haskins had a lot at stake and they raced like it, taking a group of six other athletes and building a solid lead group from the start. Throughout the bike the gap for the eight women, which also included Jenkins and Densham, only continued to grow. Haskins made a few attempts to break away from Bennett, but she wasn’t able to create a gap and ultimately ended up settling back in the group each time.
When the athletes reached T2, the time difference from the front group to the main chase pack was over two minutes, meaning that the podium would most likely come from the front eight. With every second counting in T2, Jenkins and Densham led the effort onto the run, while Bennett gained about a 15-meter advantage over Haskins. Jenkins solidified her spot out front early on in the 10K run. Densham hung on her shoulder for the first lap but eventually dropped off the back. Further back, Haskins fought her way back up to Bennett and the two ran together for a while. An Olympic spot was on the line for the Americans, and it was ultimately Bennett who edged out her former Olympic teammate.
Jenkins took the win in 1:58:20, with Densham finishing second at 1:59:25. An emotional Bennett earned the bronze position and a spot on the 2012 United States Olympic team.
The men will race tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. PDT. The first American male across the finish line, regardless of placement, will earn a spot on the Olympic team.
Check back for photos and video from the day.
ITU World Triathlon Series San Diego
San Diego, Calif. – May 11, 2012
1500m swim, 40K bike, 10K run
1. Helen Jenkins (GBR) 1:58:20
2. Erin Densham (AUS) 1:59:25
3. Laura Bennett (USA) 2:00:11
4. Jessica Harrison (FRA) 2:00:14
5. Vicky Holland (GBR) 2:00:28