Anne Haug of Germany made up 35 seconds deficit to the leaders with a brave solo surge on the bike, then flew away from the lead pack on the last 2 kilometers of the run to win the $30,000 top prize at the ITU World Championship Series Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand in a time of 2:10:50.
"I can't believe it, I can't find words for it," Haug said after the race. "I am more than happy - I never thought I could it do it!"
Haug said that her surge back to the front on the bike surprised her. "I didn't think I was strong enough but [fellow German] Anja Knapp helped me get going. I didn't think I was strong enough but I put it all on one card."
Following Haug by 10 seconds, U.S. star Gwen Jorgensen advanced from 19th after the bike to 2nd at the line, making up more than a minute deficit with a dazzling fastest run of the day, a 34:10 10k that was 63 seconds faster than Haug’s slightly less remarkable run.
Barbara Riveros-Diaz of Chile, took the final spot on the podium, just 1 second behind Jorgensen.
With this surprise victory, Haug leapfrogged past Kiwi Andrea Hewitt to take 2nd place in the season-long World Triathlon Series points chase. With her slightly off-form 7th place Grand Final finish (just 20 seconds from the lead and 9 seconds from the podium), Hewitt fell to 3rd in the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series final point standings.
Equally heroic, Sweden’s Olympic silver medalist and $151,000 Hy-Vee champion Lisa Norden arose in the morning from a hospital bed, the victim of overnight food poisoning. On the challenging hilly course that looped around downtown Auckland, she toughed it out for a 4th place Grand Final finish just 2 seconds behind Riveros-Diaz. Norden’s finish secured her the $60,000 top prize for winning the season-long ITU World Triathlon Series points championship.
"That was pretty incredible the way I felt this morning in the hospital," said Norden. "Today I dug as deep as I ever had in my life. This season has been my own fairy tale."
On a day in which Olympic champion Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and two-time ITU World Champion Emma Moffatt did not start, Australia’s 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Erin Densham entered the day in the World Triathlon Series points lead. But Densham, who made a miracle early season run to make the Australian Olympic squad, also fell prey to illness and dropped out midway through the bike leg due to a lung-sapping case of the flu.
Sarah Groff of the U.S., who finished 4th at the London Olympics, fell back about half minute at the beginning of the run before making an long surge which brought her back to the lead pack of runners with a lap and a half to go. Perhaps tapped out by this courageous effort, Groff faded back to 9th place at the finish, 30 second behind the winner.
Like the Olympics, this race was a showcase for the talents of coach Darren Smith, who guided Haug to 1st, Norden to 4th, and Groff to 9th. Smith formerly coached 3rd place finisher Riveros-Diaz until the Chilean switched coaches early this year.
ITU Olympic Distance World Triathlon Series Grand Final
Auckland, New Zealand
October 20, 2012
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
Elite Female Results
1. Anne Haug (GER) 2:10:50
2. Gwen Jorgensen (USA) 2:11:00
3. Barbara Riveros-Diaz (CHI) 2:11:01
4. Lisa Norden (SWE) 2:11:03
5. Jodie Stimpson (GBR) 2:11:03
6. Rachel Klamer (NED) 2:11:09
7. Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 2:11:10
8. Kate McIlroy (NZL) 2:11:12
9. Sarah Groff (USA) 2:11:20
10. Juri Ide (JPN) 2:11:21