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Fifty-five women will take on the 2012 London Olympics at Hyde Park on Saturday, Aug. 4. Unlike the men’s field, where the Brownlees and Javier Gomez are heavy favorites for the medals, there isn’t a totally dominant athlete in the women’s field. That being said, these are a few favorites to keep an eye on. Keep up with the Olympics at Triathlete.com/Olympics.
This preview originally appeared in the July/August issue of Inside Triathlon.
Paula Findlay (Canada) – Top Contender
Before Paula Findlay was sidelined with a hip injury in July last year, she was being compared to the great Emma Carney of Australia and Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes—two of the most dominant women in the history of the sport. This was because Findlay had won five World Triathlon Series races in a row and was seemingly unbeatable if she was with the leaders with 200 meters to go. When her name appeared on the start list of the first World Triathlon Series race of 2012, in Sydney, it seemed that Findlay was ready to get back on a roll, but then she abruptly pulled out before the race, as the same hip injury had flared up again. According to her blog, she visited a doctor in Brisbane, got her third MRI, and was finally diagnosed with a small labral tear—an injury that will eventually require surgery and which she is now electing to manage with anti-inflammatories and cortisone shots. How this will affect her in London is unknown, but she did say, “Please don’t write me off just yet” on her blog.
Biggest Weakness: Going into the Olympics with an injury that requires surgery is never good.
Helen Jenkins (Great Britain) – Top Contender
Helen Jenkins is one of the few triathletes around who has two world championships, and her greatest strengths are her consistency and her ability to race well in seemingly any condition: all-out from the gun, tactical until the finish, in the heat, the rain or the mud. Perhaps the most impressive win of her career came at the 2011 World Championship Series race in London, where she dominated the run against one of the greatest fields ever assembled despite being sick a few days before and feeling terrible on the swim and bike.
Biggest Weakness: Jenkins lacks sprinting speed.
Andrea Hewitt (New Zealand) – Top Contender
Andrea Hewitt, who finished 2011 as the No. 2 woman in the world, is a smart racer who knows how to play tactics better than anyone, but she can also race all-out from the gun and still pull out a blazing 10K. She demonstrated at the 2011 Grand Final in Beijing that when she’s in peak form, she’s nearly impossible to beat.
Biggest Weakness: On rare occasions, Hewitt misses the first swim pack.
Erin Densham (Australia) – Emerging Contender
The story of Erin Densham is one of triumph and a comeback. She endured a brutal heart surgery in 2009 and multiple injuries and illnesses since then, only to crawl her way back to the top and dominate the first part of the 2012 season. Densham has proven herself capable of winning gold. If she does, she will likely be the story of the Games.
RELATED: Helen Jenkins Dominates In San Diego
Gwen Jorgensen (USA) – American To Watch
While Gwen Jorgensen had a phenomenal race at the 2011 World Championship Series in London, where she placed second with the fastest run split of the day, the race unfolded perfectly for her—she missed the first swim pack but lucked into a group of cyclists with Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz, who’ll kill herself to bridge up to the first pack. If Jorgensen has improved her swimming and cycling to where she doesn’t have to worry about depending on others, look for her to win a medal, as she is a fierce competitor who never gives up and isn’t afraid to win even though she’s only been a professional triathlete for two years.
Sarah Groff (USA) – American To Watch
Sarah Groff had a breakthrough season last year when she became the first American woman to get on the podium of a World Triathlon Series event. She followed that up by earning bronze in the overall series—another first for an American. She is capable of winning a medal, and if she does, her vivacious personality will make her a media darling.
Laura Bennett (USA) – American To Watch
The Beijing Games fourth-place finisher is Emma Snowsill-lite in that she, too, has an uncanny ability to perform when it matters most. She used this ability to qualify for her second Olympic team by getting on the podium at the World Triathlon Series race in San Diego in May—and it just may see her through to a medal come August.
More on Team USA.
Others to Watch
– Anne Haug (GER)
– Emma Moffatt (AUS)
– Lisa Norden (SWE)
– Nicola Spirig (SUI)
– Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI)
– Kate McIlroy (NZL)
– Anja Dittmer (GER)
– Emmie Charayron (FRA)
– Ai Ueda (JPN)
– Emma Jackson (AUS)