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September 16, 2000
Swiss solo tactics KO Aussie teamworkMitch Phillips
It was supposed to be Australia's chance to get the Olympics off to a glorious start with a clean sweep of the medals.
Instead, it was the red of Switzerland dominating the podium at the women's triathlon on Saturday.
Brigitte McMahon, a 33-year-old mother, out-kicked Australia's world number one Michellie Jones to win the gold, with Magali Messmer, also of Switzerland, taking bronze.
Australia's other hopes, Loretta Harrop and Nicole Hacket, finished fifth and ninth respectively.
Yet although Australia has dominated the sport for a decade and McMahon has been around for several years with little success, this was no shock result.
Last April's World Cup race on the same course, when McMahon was second and Messmer third behind Jones, convinced the two Swiss athletes that they could be a real threat come the Olympics.
McMahon, who had never previously won a world-class race, only broke clear of Jones in the closing 100 metres for a victory feeling she said was almost impossible to describe.
A dream come true
"It's just overwhelming, a dream come true," she said after making up around 100 metres on the leaders early in the run after losing touch during the transition from the bike.
"I'd felt pretty comfortable on the bike so I tried not to worry and when I saw I was catching the lead group I was pretty positive," she said.
"I've been working hard on my sprinting and when I was training I would visualise coming down to the Opera House with someone like Michellie or Loretta beside me.
"I was trying to keep driving on but in the end I didn't need to push harder, it just seemed to do it on its own, until the last 50 metres when I thought 'go like hell'."
Messmer also finished strongly, crossing the line 28 seconds behind the winner after pulling clear of American Joanna Zeiger.
But while Harrop and Hackett had decided to work together, there was no teamwork between the two Swiss, despite their side-by-side start on the swim pontoon.
"We don't train together and there were no special tactics but the race was perfect for both of us...we just had to use as little energy as possible on the bike as we knew we could both run really fast," Messmer said.
Both believed their success would give the sport an enormous lift in Switzerland, where it has struggled for funding and recognition.
"We started to get some more attention after the World Cup race in April as people realised we were potential medal winners and this is obviously going to take it a lot further," McMahon said.
But while McMahon will be around to enjoy the fruits of her labours, Messmer is sticking by her pre-Olympics promise to retire.
"It was a great race and a wonderful occasion," said the 29-year-old.
"The crowd was incredible, it was something very special. I will take great memories from it and it will be something I will never forget but now there are other things in life I want to try."
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