There was high drama in the final World Triathlon Cup event of the season in Vina del Mar as the win was eventually awarded to 2016 Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen, nearly three hours after she had crossed the line in third behind her fellow American Katie Zaferes.
That was because the leading four women – which hadn’t included Jorgensen at that point – didn’t take the correct course when they completed the first lap of the run, instead running right on the blue carpet and over the finish line itself rather than the parallel road to the left.
That quartet – who came first, second, fourth and fifth – were all disqualified, meaning that Jorgensen’s charge on the final lap was rewarded with a fourth World Triathlon Cup win of the year, a ruling which might yet have a huge impact on the make-up of the USA women’s Olympic team for Paris next year.
Both Jorgensen and Zaferes have returned to the sport after starting families and the former has claimed recent victories at Tongyeong, Karlovy Vary and Valencia.
Zaferes thought she had notched the biggest win so far of her comeback when she sprinted clear of Tereza Zimovjanova (CZE) in the closing stages in Chile but her rollercoaster day – with vastly differing fortunes during the two transitions – was to take a significant late dip.
With Zaferes, Zimovjanova, Anna Godoy (ESP) and Mathilde Gautier (FRA) all removed from the results, the revised podium saw Jorgensen, Gina Sereno (USA) and Britain’s Vicky Holland, only recently back after the birth of her first child, as the new one-two-three.
Swim – Holland in the mix
There were chilly and slightly choppy conditions for the 750m one-lap swim in the Pacific Ocean.
And the two to work their way to the head of affairs by the first buoy were Djenyfer Arnold (BRA) and Holland, with Gautier also moving into contention.
Wearing the #1 bib, Zaferes had chosen the inside line but it wasn’t until the closing stages that she started to be prominent, with compatriot Jorgensen several places further back.
Bike – Contrasting T1 and T2 for Zaferes
A great T1 from Zaferes kept her in range of what was now a front two of Arnold and Gautier.
And that proved hugely important as Zaferes set the tone for what was to come as she drove the first chase pack to close the gap on the leading duo and we suddenly had a front five who started to work well together, with Zimovjanova and Godoy the other two in the quintet.
They made the most of a climb midway through to put time between themselves and the rest, with a second pack of 10 featuring Jorgensen, Holland and Sereno among others.
So much so that by the end of the second of three laps, they had opened up an advantage of around 40 seconds.
But things changed dramatically late on the last lap when the gap started to close.
And unfortunately for Zaferes that was compounded when she had a nightmare in T2 as she struggled to get her running shoes on, leaving the other four to head off without her.
Run – Jorgensen charges into contention
As things settled down on the flat and fast run, it was Gautier and Zimovjanova setting the pace up front on the first of two 2.5km laps.
Zaferes had done well to work her way back into contention and she and Godoy made it a front group of four as they took the bell, with Arnold now distanced in fifth and the rest struggling to get in medal contention.
But the front four appeared to have taken a slightly incorrect course by going straight on to the blue carpet and the finish line rather than following the lead (TV) motorbike and jinking left to the road that ran parallel to it.
Adding to the drama, there was now the menacing presence of Jorgensen only 15 seconds behind – and she then went from fifth to fourth as Gautier dropped back, before surging past Godoy and into third but could she now reel in the front two?
Zaferes was the first to kick and it proved decisive as she left Zimovjanova trailing in her wake and, despite an incredible final lap, Jorgensen seemingly had to settle for the bronze.
But all of that was subject to appeal – with Jorgensen having the most to gain if the first four at the end of the first run lap were handed a DQ or significant time penalties.
The wait went on for close on two hours but finally – and after the conclusion of the men’s race – it was announced that the placings had been revised, with Jorgensen, Sereno and Holland heading out for the medal ceremony.
But just as that was about to begin it emerged a counter protest had been made and the wait was extended before the result was at last confirmed and the presentation took place.
World Triathlon Cup Vina del Mar results
Sunday November 12, 2023 – 750m / 18km / 5km
Elite Women – revised result
- 1. Gwen Jorgensen (USA) – 57:28
- 2. Gina Sereno (USA) – 58:00
- 3. Vicky Holland (GBR) – 58:10
- 4. Angelica Prestia (ITA) – 58:25
- 5. Djenyfer Arnold (BRA) – 58:34
- 1. Katie Zaferes (USA) – 57:22
- 2. Tereza Zimovjanova (CZE) – 57:25
- 3. Gwen Jorgensen (USA) – 57:28
- 4. Anna Godoy (ESP) – 57:36
- 5. Mathilde Gautier (FRA) 57:51