Tucker wins world title to boost Beijing gold hopes

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The Independent Online

Britain's Olympic prospects in triathlon, already promising given the fact that Tim Don topped the world rankings after his last competition, have been further enriched by the unexpected emergence of Helen Tucker as world champion.

The 25-year-old from Bridgend produced one of the most surprising results in triathlon history in Vancouver late on Sunday night as she became only the second British woman to win the world title after Leanda Cave in 2003.

Tucker, who is now virtually certain to go to Beijing this summer, most probably in company with former world junior champion Hollie Avil, revealed after a competition which saw the defending champion, Vanessa Fernandes, of Portugal, struggle to 10th place that she had only entered the event – which took place in chilly and overcast conditions – on a whim.

"Vancouver is my new favourite place," said a delighted Tucker, shortly after crossing the finish line in two hours, one minute and 37 seconds, four seconds ahead of Sarah Haskins, of the United States. "I wasn't planning on coming to worlds; it was kind of a last-minute decision. The cold weather definitely made it harder, coming out of the swim my feet were really numb and tiredness started to set in a lot quicker on the bike."

Tucker, who met the British Olympic selection criteria along with Avil two weeks ago at the World Cup event in Madrid, only returned to competition in January having missed the best part of the previous two years because of Achilles tendon problems.

Having driven off the front of the bike pack alongside Haskins, Tucker and her rival established a two-minute lead by the second transition. The pair ran side-by-side for the main part of the concluding run before Tucker secured victory with a sprint finish, crossing the line with arms raised high in triumph.

Britain's leading trio of Don, Will Clarke and Stewart Hayes did not take part in these championships, preferring to continue their Olympic preparations at the World Cup event in Des Moines, Iowa, on 22 June. Spain's Javier Gomez underlined his position as one of Don's most dangerous likely rivals by taking the senior men's world title, finishing 24 seconds clear of the Athens Olympic silver medallist, New Zealander Bevan Docherty.

But the rest of the British team enjoyed a richly profitable time in Vancouver, with Alistair Brownlee winning the Under-23 title, while his younger brother Jonathan won bronze in the junior men's race and Glasgow's Kirsty McWilliam succeeded Avil as the women's junior world champion. The Brownlees thus became the first brothers to win medals at the same world championships.