Sarah Haskins (St. Louis, Mo. / Colorado Springs, Colo.) is getting to like Vancouver. Last year she earned her first World Cup top-three finish in the city and on Sunday she topped that with a silver medal at the 2008 ITU Triathlon World Championship.
It was the first championship medal for Haskins, who had 22nd and 10th place finishes in her first two appearances in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
Great Britain's Helen Tucker used a strong sprint down the final stretch to take the gold from Haskins. Less than a minute later, the fans were treated to another incredible sprint finish for the bronze with Samantha Warriner edging out Australians Erin Densham and Emma Moffatt. Shockingly defending champion Vanessa Fernandes finished a disappointing 10th place.
Haskins finished in 2:01:41, just four seconds behind Tucker. Fellow American Sarah Groff (Cooperstown, N.Y. / Boulder, Colo.) had a great performance, finishing seventh in 2:04:08. The rest of the U.S. crew was hampered by the frigid conditions. Laura Bennett finished 22nd, Julie Swail Ertel finished 34th, Sara McLarty finished 39th, and Amanda Stevens finished 49th.
"Getting on the podium was definitely a goal. I couldn't ask for more," said Haskins, who collapsed from exhaustion at the finish line.
The Americans and Brits dominated out of the water holding the first five positions including Haskins and Tucker. Heavy pre- race favorite Fernandes exited the water in seventh place 14 seconds down.
Out onto the testing 40-kilometer bike course that included one substantial hill, six women made up the lead group including Fernandes. However, late in the first lap, Haskins and Tucker decided to break away and rode through after the second lap holding an 18-second lead. Their pair worked well together and increased the lead to a full minute by the midway mark. The first chase pack included Emma Moffatt and Fernandes. Just 13 seconds back was the large second chase group which contained a number of big names such as Bennett, Lisa Norden, Erin Densham, Kate Allen and the powerful Kiwi trio of Andrea Hewitt, Samantha Warriner, and Debbie Tanner.
On the fifth lap, the second chase group caught up to form one huge chase group of 34 women all in pursuit of the leaders Tucker and Haskins. The second chase pack was more than three minutes behind and included Asian Champion Ai Ueda and Canadians Carolyn Murray and Lauren Groves.
The bike portion was similar to last year with Haskins in a two-woman breakaway. Eventually she was reeled in late in the run by Warriner but she managed to hang on for the silver. This year, Haskins and Tucker continued to hammer it out on the bike, building the lead to 1:40 after the sixth of eight laps, and then to 2:02 with one lap to go. The second chase group also continued to lose time and found itself down by almost four minutes.
The first lap I worked the hill and we kind of had a group of us that worked together," said Haskins. "The second lap, I attacked the hill and decided I had to go. Just Helen was behind me. We worked together really well on the bike. Sara McLarty helped to slow the chase pack behind me."
Haskins was first out of T2 with Tucker just five seconds back. A full two minutes later is when the next woman, Moffatt, headed out on the flat 10-kilometer run course. Behind Moffatt were a number of strong runners including Warriner, Norden, Tanner, and Sweetland. Meanwhile Fernandes looked sluggish and was slow through transition to be one of the last in the group to get on the run course.
The two minutes was more than enough for Haskins and Tucker, the only question being who would get gold and who would get bronze. The two ran side by side for nearly the entire ten kilometers until the final turn when Tucker powered ahead.
"The weather was brutal, the swim especially. But once I got on the bike, it really wasn't that bad. I'll take this over 100 degrees, though," said Haskins, who will face warmer conditions at the Hy-Vee Triathlon where she'll try to qualify for the final U.S. Olympic Team spot in two weeks.
Vancouver BG Triathlon World Championships, Canada
Elite Women - Unofficial Results
1.5km swim, 40km swim, 10km run
Read more news from USAT.