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Australian athlete Erin Densham won the World Triathlon Series race in Sydney today with a dominating run, putting the Australian Olympic selectors in a bit of a predicament in the process.
British athlete and reigning world champion Helen Jenkins finished second, and 2011 Grand Final winner Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand placed third.
Densham, who spent the better part of the last few years recovering from a heart problem and racing below her potential, is coming off of a win at the Mooloolaba World Cup three weeks ago, when she again dominated the field with a scintillating run.
With Densham’s win and comeback from illness, the Australian selectors now have three top Australian women to fill the remaining two Olympic spots. (Two-time world champion Emma Moffatt, who placed 13th today, has already been preselected.)
Prior to Mooloolaba and today, it was widely believed that the Australian Olympic selectors would choose reigning Olympic champion Emma Snowsill, who finished 14th today, and Emma Jackson, who finished 33rd today, for the remaining two spots.
Densham brushed off the topic of Olympic selection, however, when ITU reporter Barrie Shepley asked her about it.
“Today was just all about focusing on my race. Nothing external was going on,” she said.
The race started off with Japanese athlete Mariko Adachi coming first out of the water in 19:07; the first pack of swimmers was about 30 seconds behind her.
She was quickly joined by a group of about 30 riders that included many of the race’s big hitters, such as Jenkins, Hewitt and Moffatt.
Pre-race favorites Snowsill, Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah Groff of the U.S., and Nicola Spirig of Switzerland rode behind the lead pack for a majority of the 40K bike leg, but their pack bridged up to the leaders with about 10K to go.
At the start of the run, Densham powered out of T2, setting a blistering pace, and a small pack of runners that included Jenkins, Spirig, Adachi, Hewitt, Moffatt and Spain’s Ainhoa Murua formed around her.
Slowly, runners began to drop off the pack, which was largely paced by Densham and Jenkins, and with 5K to go only Densham, Jenkins and Hewitt remained.
With about 2K to go, Hewitt began to slip off the pace, and with about 1K to go and after a hairpin turn, Densham asserted her authority, breaking Jenkins.
She crossed the line in 2:01:28, with Jenkins eight seconds behind.
In other notable performances, after a less-than-stellar transition out of T2, American Gwen Jorgensen ran through most of the field and finished fourth overall, 42 seconds behind Densham.