Emma Snowsill wins Olympic triathlon Emma Snowsill ended Australia’s Olympic triathlon drought when she claimed gold with a dominant win in the women’s race in Beijing today.

The pint-sized Snowsill, who missed the Australian team for 2004, burned off fierce rival Vanessa Fernandes of Portugal in the final section to close in 1 hour 58 minutes 27 seconds, a lead of 1:06. Australia’s Emma Moffatt took bronze in 1:59:55.84.

Snowsill, 27, had such a commanding lead that she took time to celebrate with fans down the final straight, beaming and waving the Australian flag as she crossed the line.

“I didn’t feel awesome,” she confided. “It was extremely hard, it was hot. I think it was a great course for a triathlon. It was a really tough course.

“I feel very proud and honoured to be an Australian with a gold medal around my neck at the Olympic Games.

“I believe we came so close in Sydney and Athens that this makes up for those very close defeats.

“I don’t feel any regret about not going to Athens, you move on and you deal with it. But to come from a nation that’s so strong in terms of triathlon, it’s a fantastic feeling to finally bring home a gold medal.”

The triple world champion had broken away from a 19-strong lead group at the start of the run leg and was never challenged on the way to the finish.

Australia’s Erin Densham was 22nd.

The victory is redemption for the 1.61m ‘Snowy’ who was overlooked for Athens 2004 but has since collected Commonwealth gold and her second and third world titles with nine World Cup series wins along the way.

And the win ended Australia’s run of heartbreak since triathlon became an Olympic event at the Sydney Games.

In 2000 Australia’s Michellie Jones was the world number one and favourite to win gold, but finished in second place behind Swiss triathlete Brigitte McMahon.

Four years later Australia’s Loretta Harrop was the favourite in Athens, but tired in the final stretch to lose the gold medal to Australian-born Austrian Kate Allen by seven seconds.

How it happened

Sarah Haskins hit the front early in the Ming Tomb Reservoir swim but the athletes were tightly bunched at the first change with American team-mate Laura Bennett narrowly landing first in 19:49.

Bennett maintained her lead through the transition onto the bikes with Japan’s Juri Ide and Snowsill in close contention along with Moffatt and Fernandes.

An eight-bike pile-up at the end of lap five dashed the hopes of Canada’s Laura Groves and Russian Irina Abysova as riders careered over the barrier and into each other at the hairpin stadium turn.

Moffatt led the standings after the bike race at 1:24:38.76 but Snowsill was off like a shot as she opened up a 15-second lead on Fernandes by the end of the first 2.5km lap and doubled her advantage by the halfway stage.

Snowsill took a wrong turn going into the stadium at the end of lap three but could afford to make mistakes with her lead already stretched to nearly a minute.

The gruelling ‘splash/mash/dash’ – 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run – was held at the scenic Ming Tomb Reservoir near Beijing in sunny conditions with temperatures at about 25 C (77 F).