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Olympics: McMahon makes winning start for Switzerland

McMahon holds the gold aloft after winning the first ever Olympic triathlon Keystone

The Swiss triathlete Brigitte McMahon has won the opening event of the Sydney Olympic Games. In a fantastic start for Switzerland, Magali Messmer also took the bronze medal.

McMahon was lying in 13th position after the 1,500 metre swim and 40 kilometre cycle race. But she raced through the field during the 10 kilometre run before crossing the finish line two seconds ahead of the Australian favourite, Michellie Jones.

For the 33-year-old mother from canton Zug it was a triumphant return to Sydney, following her second place finish on the same course earlier this year. On that occasion Jones, currently number one in the sport’s world rankings, was the only triathlete to get the better of McMahon.

Jones, though, was unable to match McMahon as the Swiss athlete raised the tempo for the final sprint. After winning on the world’s biggest stage in triathlon’s first Olympic showing, McMahon was almost speechless.

“It’s unbelievable,” she told reporters. “I just can’t express it… just fantastic. When I got to that last turn and saw it was just Michellie and me I thought ‘first or second, I can’t lose’ but then tried to push it as hard as I could.”

Jones, who has been at the top of triathlon for 10 years, winning the world title in 1992 and 1993, said she had been unable to stay with McMahon’s fierce pace in the run-in.

“It was really tough, it was like sprinting for three kilometres,” she said. “I’m really disappointed but when I think about it a silver medal isn’t bad.”

With Messmer following Jones across the line, it certainly wasn’t a bad start to the Games for Switzerland. With gold and bronze in the opening event, the Swiss found themselves at the top of the international medal table for a few hours at least.

The priority for the Swiss delegation is to prove that the seven medals won in Atlanta four years ago were not just a freak occurrence. Thanks to McMahon and Messmer that burden has already become a little lighter.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR