Germany's Anne Haug overcame a tough course and stiff opposition to win the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday. The victory was the finishing touch to her breakthrough season and also catapulted her to number two in the overall series rankings, making her the ITU World Championships silver medalist.
"It's been a good season, and it's the final highlight and I can't believe that I'm here," said Haug. "I'm like in a bubble and I hope I can believe it when everything settles down. It was a perfect race and unbelievable."
American Gwen Jorgensen staged a ferocious comeback to finish behind Haug in second, while posting a race-best 34:10 run split. Barbara Riveros Diaz took the bronze in the race, sweet redemption for the Chilean after last year's Grand Final disappointment.
Lisa Norden (SWE) finished fourth in the Grand Final which was more than enough to secure the 2012 ITU World Championship, capping off a breathtaking season in which she won silver at the Olympic Games and collected two series wins.
|Elite Women Results||Time||
|Final Women Rankings||Points|
|Anne Haug (GER)||2:10:48||
|Lisa Norden (SWE)||4531|
|Gwen Jorgensen (USA)||2:11:00||
|Anne Haug (GER)||4340|
|Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI)||2:11:01||
|Andrea Hewitt (NZL)||3893|
|Lisa Norden (SWE)||2:11:03||
|Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI)||3707|
|Jodie Stimpson (GBR)||2:11:03||
|Erin Densham (AUS)||3611|
|Rachel Klamer (NED)||2:11:09||
|Nicola Spirig (SUI)||3264|
|Andrea Hewitt (NZL)||2:11:10||
|Sarah Groff (USA)||3232|
|Kate McIlroy (NZL)||2:11:12||
|Ainhoa Murua (ESP)||3065|
|Sarah Groff (USA)||2:11:20||
|Gwen Jorgensen (USA)||3048|
|Juri Ide (JPN)||2:11:21||
|Kate McIlroy (NZL)||3044|
The 44 elite women began the day with a chilly two-lap 1.5km swim. Rachel Klamer (NED) emerged from the water first, followed closely by Aileen Morrison (IRL), Sarah Groff (USA) and Jessica Harrison (FRA). Also in the front pack were Norden and Erin Densham (AUS), which looked to set up a tremendous clash for the World Championship.
But Densham, who had been sick all week, couldn't keep up on the tough Auckland course and dropped from the lead group and fell further behind. Unable to continue, Densham eventually pulled the plug and called it a day.
In stark contrast, Haug attacked on the bike early and bridged up to bring her and the rest of the chase group even with the leaders on the third lap.
Coming into T2 was the leading 19 women who now owned a lead of a minute and 15 seconds over the chase.
Out onto the 10km run course, 12 women ran together up front including Norden, Andrea Hewitt (NZL), Groff, Riveros, Haug, McIlroy, Klamer, Ainhoa Murua (ESP), Jodie Stimpson (GBR), Flora Duffy (BER), and Juri Ide (JPN).
But the lead out of T2 wasn't as comfortable as it may have appeared as Jorgensen was busting through the field.
Haug, however, would not be denied gold as she surged ahead to the finish, stopping the clock at 2 hours, 10 minutes, 48 seconds to record the biggest win of her career.
Jorgensen hammered the run course with the fastest time by 40 seconds to come all the way back and out-sprint Riveros for the silver.
Norden, who later revealed she went to hospital overnight to be treated for food poisoning, finished in fourth place, collecting enough points to be crowned ITU World Champion. She added to her illustrious collection that includes Olympic silver, the ITU Sprint World Championship and an Under23 World Championship.
"My leg was cramping up in the finish chute and I couldn't run properly but this is the last race and this is the last finish chute, and I just had to get over that line and at least a world championship medal on the other side," said Norden, who finished fourth at the Grand Final for the third straight year. "Silver medal in the Olympics and then a world championship, it's the best year I've ever had, and as a triathlete I'm feeling very, very happy with my accomplishments."
Stimpson finished in fifth, followed by Klamer in sixth place.
Home favourite Hewitt finished seventh in the race which was enough to lock up bronze in the series. Despite entering the race as the series leader, Densham fell to fifth in the overall rankings after failing to finish.
Source: Internation Triathlon Union
Photo Credits: Janos M. Schmidt & Delly Carr