Swim, Bike and Rerun: A memorable home Olympics in 2012


London 2012 gave six British triathletes the opportunity to race for Olympic glory in front of a home crowd in Hyde Park.

Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, Stuart Hayes, Lucy Hall, Helen Jenkins and Vicky Holland raced for Team GB, with tens of thousands of spectators turning out to cheer them on.

The London course saw athletes swim 1500m in the Serpentine in Hyde Park before taking on a 40km bike leg around the outside of the park, a route which would see them pass by the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.

Returning to transition next to the Serpentine, athletes would then embark on a 10km run around the lake, finishing in front of the grandstand.

The women’s race was the first to take place on Saturday 4 August. Of the three British athletes in the race, only Helen Jenkins had raced at an Olympics before, with both Holland and Hall making their debuts.

As world number one and reigning ITU World Champion, Jenkins would be battling for one of the top spots in what was a high-class and competitive field.

Hall, at 20 years-of-age, was the youngest athlete in the field and led out of the water. Out of transition and onto the bike leg, she allowed the chase group to catch her up so that she could support Jenkins across the 40km.

This lead group stayed together, and, with T2 complete, 22 athletes headed out onto the run.

Jenkins was at the front of this group and drove them along the run course. A breakaway group of Erin Densham (AUS), Nicola Spirig (SUI), Lisa Norden (SWE), Jenkins and Sarah Groff (USA) emerged to battle it out for the medals.

Onto the final lap and the pace quickened, with Jenkins fading from the group. Spirig (SUI) quickened the pace with the finish line in sight and as they hit the blue carpet, it looked like a three-way sprint between the Swiss, Norden and Densham.

Above: Helen Jenkins' 5th place was the highest female Olympic result for a Team GB triathlete.

Densham dropped off for bronze, with Spirig and Norden racing all the way to the tape. Spirig won it in a photo finish to claim the Olympic crown. Jenkins finished 5th, Holland, who had crashed on the bike, recovered to cross the line in 26th, with Hall coming home in 33rd.

After finishing fifth, Jenkins commented: “I am so grateful to Vicky and Lucy, they put me in the right position, they delivered me to the right place, but I didn’t have the legs on that last lap, the girls who got the medals, they deserved that.” 

A few days later it was the men’s turn to take to the pontoon on the Serpentine. Both Brownlees and Spaniard Javier Gomez were among the pre-race favourites, with all three coming out of the water in the front group after a quick swim of the single lap 1500m course.

The two brothers were supported by Stuart Hayes to help set a fast pace throughout the bike leg, hoping to tire their competition ahead of the run. A large group kept with them and arrived in T2 together, with the Brownlees once again at the head of the pack.

Jonathan had incurred a 15-second penalty when mounting his bike and, with this in mind, he and Alistair set off to try and create as much of a cushion for him to take that in as possible.

By the end of the first lap, a leading trio of the Brownlees and Gomez (ESP) had created a 17-second lead on the chase group. On the second lap, Alistair and Gomez pushed on in pursuit of gold, with Jonathan unable to keep pace with them but keeping clear of the chase group.

Taking his penalty at the end of the third lap, Jonathan maintained his bronze medal position. Now 32 seconds behind brother Alistair, who had a 5-second lead on Gomez, crucially Jonathan still had a 13-second advantage over fourth place.

Above: Alistair won Britain's first Olympic triathlon gold in London.

Across the final lap, Alistair strode clear of Gomez and, grabbing a Union flag, enjoyed the cheers of the packed grandstand as he took the tape and the Olympic gold medal. Gomez finished with silver, eleven seconds behind, with Jonathan Brownlee taking bronze.

After the race Alistair said: “We made no secret that we wanted to get both of us on the podium today and that’s not an easy thing to do considering Britain’s never won a medal in triathlon. We gave it everything; it shows the strength of training together and pushing each other on all the time.”

He added: “To get two British brothers on the podium, you could not ask for more and, with Stuart Hayes, we really were a team of three. Today we had a plan and we executed it really well." 

You can relive the action by watching the full coverage from both races via the buttons below.

Women's Race Men's Race

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