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Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand Wins ITU Grand Final; American Sarah Groff Earns Overall Bronze

Hewitt's notorious sprint earns her the Grand Final title, while Groff's 10th place finish secures her the overall World Championship Series bronze.

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Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand used her notorious sprint to outkick Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins and win the ITU Dextro Energy World Championship Series Grand Final in Beijing.

Jenkins’ silver medal earned her the overall ITU short-course world championship title, with Hewitt’s win securing her the overall silver.

Groff stands with Jenkins and Hewitt on the World Championship Series overall podium. Photo by Janos Schmidt and triathlon.org.

In the biggest U.S. news of the day, American Sarah Groff, who recently qualified for the 2012 Olympics, pulled off a feat that no other American has ever accomplished—she earned the World Championship Series overall bronze medal by finishing 10th today.

Previously, the best finish by an American in World Championship Series standings was Sarah Haskins’ sixth in 2009.

American Laura Bennett, who finished fifth today, finished the World Championship Series season ranked eighth overall.

The race began with Kerry Lang of Great Britain and Jenkins leading the women out of the water, with Groff and Bennett on their heels.

Sarah Groff's World Championship Series bronze is the first for an American. Photo by Delly Carr and triathlon.org.

Paula Findlay—one of the pre-race favorites and contenders for the overall world title—came out of the water about 50 seconds behind the lead group. According to the ITU, Findlay likely was having shoulder issues from a bike crash she was involved in a few days before the race.

The crash proved prophetic as Findlay, who won the first three World Championship Series races of 2011 before her season was derailed with a hip injury, abandoned the race today in the first bike lap.

The lead swimmers quickly formed a bike pack of 15 that included Jenkins, Groff, Bennett, Hewitt, Kate Mcilroy of New Zealand and Lisa Norden of Sweden. The women pushed the pace, increasing their lead by more than two minutes by the time they entered T2. The pace was so tough, in fact, that the pack dropped two riders.

This quick pace over the tough and hilly course meant pre-race favorites Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile and Emma Jackson and Emma Moffatt of Australia—who didn’t swim well enough to make the lead pack—started the run with a major deficit to make up.

This deficit, along with Findlay’s DNF, in fact, is what ensured Groff her bronze medal; if Moffatt or Jackson, who finished 11th and 12th, respectively, had caught her she would have won the bronze over Groff. Riveros’ 44th place put her out of the running for the World Championship Series podium.

As the women started the run, Hewitt and Jenkins quickly separated themselves from the rest. And while Jenkins led for much of the race, allowing Hewitt to run on her heels, she couldn’t answer Hewitt’s surge with about 600 meters to go.

Grand Final finishes:

1.         ANDREA HEWITT      NZL     1:58:27

2.         HELEN JENKINS        GBR     +0:13

3.         MELANIE ANNAHEIM           SUI      +0:31

4.         LISA NORDEN            SWE    +0:33

5.         LAURA BENNETT      USA     +0:35

6.         KATE MCILROY         NZL     +0:37

7.         JESSICA HARRISON   FRA     +0:42

8.         LIZ BLATCHFORD      GBR     +1:44

9.         FLORA DUFFY            BER     +1:58

10.       SARAH GROFF            USA     +2:10

11.       EMMA MOFFATT       AUS     +2:15

12.       EMMA JACKSON        AUS     +2:17

13.       FELICITY ABRAM      AUS     +2:21

14.       AINHOA MURUA        ESP     +2:34

15.       ALICE BETTO ITA      +2:36

Overall World Championship Series standings

World Champion – Helen Jenkins (GBR) – 4023 points

Silver – Andrea Hewitt (NZL) – 3836 points

Bronze – Sarah Groff (USA) – 2783 points

4 – Emma Jackson (AUS) – 2760 points

5 – Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) – 2754 points

6 – Paula Findlay (CAN) – 2637 points

7 –  Emma Moffatt (AUS) – 2611 points

8 – Laura Bennett (USA) – 2560 points

9 – Lisa Norden (SWE) – 2265 points

10 – Melanie Annaheim (SUI) – 1950 points