Australian birthday girl Emma Jackson was within touching distance of the perfect present when she finished second in the 2011 Dextro ITU World Triathlon Sprint Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland yesterday.
Jackson, who turned 20 yesterday, was edged out of the gold medal by Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz, finishing just one second behind in a thrilling finish.
She had looked the winner 500 metres from the finish when she opened up a five-metre gap ahead of early pacesetter Helen Jenkins of Great Britain but Riveros Diaz produced a brave finish that saw her take the lead with 200m to go and hold on for a narrow win.
New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt was third, with Jenkins fourth, while Jackson’s countrywoman Ashleigh Gentle placed fifth, just seven seconds behind the winner in a great result for another of Australia’s rising stars.
“I tried to give it all in the last one K and see where I could come,” said Jackson, who also finished second in the World Championship round in Hamburg last month. “I’m really happy with that “at the start of the season I had no idea I’d be getting podium finishes.”
Race favourite Emma Moffatt finished a disappointing 24th, while Olympic champion Emma Snowsill pulled out of yesterday’s race with a viral infection.
In the men’s race, veteran Brad Kahlefeldt was the best of the Australian contingent in 11th place behind race winner Jonathan Brownlee, of Great Britain, who defended his sprint title by outpacing Spain’s Javier Gomez, with his brother Alistair Brownlee finishing third.
In the women’s race, Jackson and world junior champion Gentle worked their way into a lead pack of five soon after the start of the run after Jenkins, who won the previous round of the World Championship over the 2012 Olympic course in London, set the pace from the starting gun
The British star trailed only countrywoman Lucy Hall out of the water after the 750m swim and had opened up a 21-second lead over third-placed Moffatt, with Jackson eight seconds further back and Felicity Sheedy-Ryan, Gentle and Felicity Abram all about one minute behind the leader.
Showing her cycling prowess, Jenkins worked her way clear of Hall on the first climb of lap one on the 20km bike ride to find herself setting the pace on her own but she was caught by the chasing pack on lap three, with Jackson, Gentle, Abram and Moffatt prominent, although Moffatt was showing signs of struggling in the 30-degree-plus heat.
There were 34 athletes in the lead pack at the transition to the 5km run but Jackson, Gentle, Jenkins, Riveros Diaz and Hewitt soon broke clear.
They ran together at the start of the run, with Abram about 50m behind in sixth place, before Gentle dropped back as the pace quickened.
Jackson started to push pace at the front and established a five-metre lead, with Jenkins still pushing hard, Hewitt sitting quietly and Riveros Diaz playing it cool.
Just when Australian supporters started to believe Jackson’s birthday wish would come true, Riveros Diaz unleashed her finishing sprint, which proved just too hard to match for the young Aussie.
Abram finished 10th in her best result of the season.
Australia’s National Head Coach Shaun Stephens was thrilled with the performance of his young stars.
“That’s just a terrific result for Emma, Ashleigh and Felicity (Abram),” he said.
“‘Jacko’ is just getting stronger and stronger and for Ashleigh to finish in the top five in only her second World Championship race is outstanding.
“Emma went for it 800m out because she knows she’s not the best sprinter but Barbara is an experienced athlete and Jacko just didn’t have enough to hold on. Importantly though, she had put herself into a position to have a chance of winning.”
Stephens said the Australian contingent had looked forward to racing in the hot conditions after seeing plenty of grey days and rain in the World Championship so far.
He said Moffatt was very disappointed with what was her worst result in two years and Snowsill was also upset at not being able to race and both athletes would switch their sights to the series final in Beijing on September next month.
|1||Barbara Riveros Diaz||CHI||0:58:35||0:00:00||0:00:00||0:16:34|
|26||Fabienne Aline St Louis||MRI||1:00:37||0:10:38||0:30:21||0:18:34|
|60||Romina Palacios Balena||ARG||1:09:02||0:10:52||0:36:50||0:20:13|
|DNF||Eun Kyung Sung||KOR||0:00:00||0:10:37||0:00:00||0:00:00|