The kid from Campbelltown, Erin Densham arrived back into Sydney this week from her new home in Melbourne, without a care in the world.
Australia’s bravest triathlete will now leave with a maiden Dextro Energy ITU Triathlon World Championship Series win under her belt and a real shot at her second Olympics.
The 26-year-old Beijing Olympian, who has had the worst four years of her life with injury and illness, stood on top of the podium for the first time in front of her family and friends “presenting her mum with the bouquet of roses presented to the winners.
It was the highlight of a career which has seen her suffer some wonderful highs and agonising, frustrating lows and three years after surgery to correct a congenital heart problem.
Densham raced away to beat ITU World Champion Helen Jenkins (GBR) and ITU Grand Final winner Andrea Hewitt (NZ) in an impressive victory.
The men’s race proved a triumph for Germany’s Steffen Justus from Richard Murray (RSA) and Laurent Vidal (FRA) with Australia’s triathlon legend Chris McCormack the best of the Aussies in 34th.
Australia’s top seeds Brendan Sexton and Brad Kahlefeldt both withdrew from the race “Sexton on the second lap of the bike and Kahlefeldt on the second lap of the run after a being well back in the battle to stay in touch with the packs.
But Densham was the story of the day “something befitting of a true Olympic journey. Of the struggle to get to the start line, overcoming the obstacles and difficulties that have presented her and the wonderful triumphs of a deserved victory.
There were times when she contemplated retirement, even encouraged to give it away by her mum Jan who like her determined daughter wondered how many more hurdles she would have to overcome if she was to get back anywhere near her best.
“I have had the worst run ever over the past four years so I finally just put together five months of consistent training and got it together,” said Densham, who now heads towards San Diego and the second round of the ITU Series.
“I haven’t had any interruptions or injuries, touch wood. It’s just been easy and good to get the job done.
“I am keeping the emotions out of it and just focussing on what I have to do. I have a few days off now so I am excited about that. Mooloolaba was the first step and proved what I could do.
“There was more pressure today in knowing what I could do….and coming to do it again, I am sure there was probably a few people who thought it was a one-off so I am just glad I have done it again and hopefully I can put some of those doubters to rest. This is my biggest win so far so it’s great.”
Going into today’s race, Densham, stood alongside Olympic champion Emma Snowsill, last year’s fourth-place getter in the ITU World Series Emma Jackson and young gun Ashleigh Gentle as the serious contenders for Olympic selection.
And following her victory in the ITU Triathlon World Cup in Mooloolaba three weeks ago, Densham has certainly thrown her hat squarely into the selection ring.
But she had to overcome what she described as a brutal 1500m swim leg.
“I had a shocking start this morning, I got absolutely belted. It’s so brutal out there,” said Densham.
“Those girls can be so angry, I just don’t get it. We’re all trying to go one spot, let’s just spread out and get there. I got pushed, pulled and hit. I didn’t think I was anywhere near to the front.
“When I came out and when I was onto the bike I was surprised to be back in front again which I was really happy with.”
As the run unfolded Densham, Jenkins and Hewitt sped away from the field, with Gentle, Snowsill and Jackson in hot pursuit.
First it was Hewitt who dropped off the pace and then Densham timed her breakaway to perfection to leave Jenkins behind in a perfectly timed run to the finish, where her family, including Mum Jan were there to greet her.
Jenkins hung on for second, Hewitt for third with Gentle the next best Aussie in 10th, Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffatt (13th), Olympic champion Snowsill (14th), Felicity Sheedy-Ryan (16th) and Jackson a disappointing 33rd.
The men’s race saw Russian Ivan Vasiliev lead until midway through the 10km run when Justus, Murray and Vidal took over and Justus raced away to secure a place for London and he couldn’t hide his joy, jumping through the finish banner.
“My racing has worked so well at the beginning of the year and it’s really good motivation for me to have this win and it’s great training for London,” said Justus.
“I sat in the middle of the pack in the swim. In the bike I tried to stay in the top 10-15, but it was such a big group today and it’s quite dangerous in the middle.
“Transition two was good for me and I had a good run out with Alexander (Bryukhankov) made a fast run in the front, so it was good for me because it split the pack. From 6km mark I tried to push a bit and he dropped; so I kept running and running to make a bigger gap and make it to the finish line.”
McCormack, who had almost the entire crowd cheering for him certainly gave a good sight, charging off the bike and onto the run.
“I forget how long 10km is! It was a really hard course and I had to spin a bit on the last two laps of the bike,” said 38-year-old McCormack, who admitted he was aggressive early “just like he was 12 year ago.
“I actually had to be less aggressive on the last few laps to rest the legs before the run. The Russians were very aggressive today. I tried to get to the front, but those boys are so strong.
“I didn’t win today, but I’m happy as the first Australian across the line; it’s a good start. (towards Olympic selection). Hopefully I can do something good in San Diego as well.
“If you had told me a year ago it (London) was possible “I would have laughed… this old timer?”