2011 London Elite Women's

The Dextro Energy ITU World Championship Series races are always exciting. But mix in the fact that this was a test event for the 2012 Olympics in London and Olympic qualifying was on the line for a raft of contenders from around the world, the pressure and the electricity got a turbo boost of epic proportions. When Olympic qualifying is factored in, surprises reign. Gwen Jorgenson's 2nd place finish and Olympic qualification was the biggest shock. But so was the fact that long time US stars Sarah Haskins and Laura Bennett came out on the short end with disappointing races. They were topped by Jorgensen and the hard working Sarah Groff, who took U.S. slot number 2 with a 7th place finish and was beaming with quiet pride afterward. More surprises included the fact that the 1-2-3 finish a few weeks ago of the three Aussie Emmas at Hamburg would not be repeated, as Jackson (4th) Snowsill (5th) and Moffatt (15th) all had off days.

But no matter the final accounting of numbers that enumerate the winners, Olympic qualifying draws ultimate efforts, brave finishes, and those who were injured and unable to perform at accustomed levels without fail raced with integrity.

All photographs © Timothy Carlson

Sarah Groff could not walk or run in January. But after three years of hard work, a dedicated recovery, and three top American finishes on the WCS circuit, Groff was cool and clutch and 7th - and punched her ticket to London 2012.

Svenja Bazlen of Germany splashed her hands and face before the start and took 13th. .

Andrea Hewitt looked delighted to be racing in London and the New Zealander took 6th.

The women take off with the collective alacrity of a Cobra striking.

Women powered hard on the swim in Hyde Park's Serpentine.

Sarah Haskins had the fastest swim but the rest of her day ended in a disappointing 34th place. Racing with a brace on her leg might loffer a clue why the USA's co-favorite was off form.

Kate McIlroy (15) of New Zealand, Aileen Morrison of Ireland (56)and Danne Boterenbrood of the Netherlands (17) exit the swim.

Women's bike pack passes through the Wellington Arch at the edge of Hyde Park.

Gwen Jorgensen (56) missed the first bike pack, but the second pack worked hard and they all ended up starting the run together.

As you can see as the women all finished the bike together, the race came down to the run.

Marina Damlaimcourt of Spain is the face of pain. She finished 37th.

Laura Bennett said she knew she didn’t have it in warm-ups. Here she fights a side stitch on her way to 24th place.

Gwen Jorgensen was on fire. Her 33:43 10k run was the fastest of the day and took her from mid pack after the bike to 2nd place.

Late in the run, Jorgensen used her 15:52 5k speed honed at the University of Wisconsin to pass Anja Dittmer.

With a lap to go, Jorgensen is about to pass Emma Jackson for 2nd place and held off Sarah Groff's charge.

Helen Jenkins celebrates her home country victory that cinched her second Olympic appearance.

Gwen Jorgensen wrapped herself in Old Glory as she earned second place - in her second ever WCS finish!

Anja Dittmer of Germany not only beat Emmas Jackson and Snowsill for third, she earned a precious 4th straight Olympic appearance.

Gwen Jorgensen (2nd) embraces fellow 2012 US Olympian Sarah Groff (7th) at the line.

Jodie Stimpson started out the run with fellow Brit Helen Jenkins, then gave all she had to finish 14th.