Allen leaves it late for gold

Kate Allen, an Australian-born triathlete who switched citizenship two years ago, won Austria its first gold medal of these Games in spectacular fashion here yesterday.

Kate Allen, an Australian-born triathlete who switched citizenship two years ago, won Austria its first gold medal of these Games in spectacular fashion here yesterday.

After a slow 1.5 kilometres open-water swim and a decent 40km bike ride, the 34-year-old produced a stunning 10km run to take the lead for the first time inside the final 200 metres of a two-hour, 51.5km slog over a hilly and testing course.

As the long-time leader, Australia's Loretta Harrop, looked on - shattered and in disbelief - Allen eased past to the line as if she had been on a fun run instead of competing in one of the Games' toughest assignments.

Allen's winning time, in a race where Britain's Michelle Dillon finished sixth but her compatriot, Jodie Swallow, faded badly after a bright start, was 2hr 4min 43.45sec. Harrop, despite being overtaken so close to the line, traipsed in 6.72sec later. America's Susan Williams took the bronze in 2hr 5min 8.92sec.

For much of the cycling leg, the only relevant question seemed to be which of two competitors, Harrop or America's Sheila Taormina, would take gold, and which of two other Americans, Williams or Barbara Lindquist, would win their personal battle for bronze.

The main issue seemed settled when Harrop, who won silver at this year's world championships, bravely broke away on the run. Despite the sapping heat, she left the other three in her wake.

But Allen, who had finished the swim in 44th place out of 50 competitors, and was joint 10th after the cycling, was quietly purring through the field.

"I was hoping to run into a top-five position," she said. "But then my husband [who was standing at the side of the road] said, 'Do you know you are running for silver?'

"I had no idea, to run into gold was amazing. It was only in the last 200 metres I saw it was possible. Loretta looked back and saw me but didn't increase her speed. It was the best feeling of my career."

Allen's run was clocked at 34min 13sec, more than a minute quicker than her closest rival on that section, Italy's Nadia Cortassa, who came fifth overall.

Allen became an Austrian citizen in 2002 and was then asked by the Austrian authorities, rather than vice versa, whether she would represent them here.

"I had some pretty good results last year and was able to qualify," she said after yesterday's historic win, which was immediately hailed by Austria's chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, as "a tremendous success... In the name of all Austrians I heartily congratulate her."

Swallow, eighth after the swim but 34th at the end, said: "It was pretty awful and I feel absolutely awful for various reasons, but all credit to myself - I toughed it out." Dillon, a former 10,000m runner for Australia, said: "I'm pleased. I ran really strongly towards the end. I thought I had a reasonable swim. The only thing was people were pulling my zipper down in the swim, obviously trying to pull me back. I couldn't believe people were actually doing that."

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