Retrospective Triathlon in the Olympic Games: Beijing 2008

The 2008 Beijing Olympics marked the 3rd participation of Triathlon in the Summer Olympics, and marked the first time that internet allowed a broader audience to the world.

At the time, the pre-race favorites were Spain’s Javier Gomez and Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes, who  were both reigning ITU world champions at the time.

copyright Frank Weschell/ITU
copyright Frank Weschell/ITU

Fifty-five women lined up on August 18, 2008 at 10:00, and in a clear sky and sunny day, Australian Emma Snowsill took home the gold, beating the then world number 1 Fernandes, who took silver. Another Aussie, Emma Moffatt won the bronze.

The men’s race saw one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the sport.  In a tight lead pack of four, three big names and a little-known German named Jan Frodeno.  In the pack were Javier Gomez, the world number 1, Simon Whitfield, the 2000 Oymplic Gold Medalist, and Kiwi Bevan Docherty, silver in Athens and also a world champion.

copyright Delly Carr/ITU
copyright Delly Carr/ITU

In a surprising turn of events, the current world champion Gomez at the time was left out of the podium spot.  In a sprint finish, Frodeno used his long strides to win the gold.  Whitfield was a surprise silver, and Docherty took bronze.


Asia was represented by ten triathletes (five from Japan, three from China and two from Hong Kong).  The Japanese women impressed with two top-ten finishes.   Juri Ide finished fifth at 2:00:22 and compatriot Kiyomi Niwata finished 9th.

Next week, we take a look back at the 2012 London Olympics, where the olympic curse for pre-race favorites was finally broken.

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