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Austrian Allen wins triathlon gold

ATHENS, Greece -- Austria's Kate Allen produced a barnstorming finish to snatch women's triathlon gold from Australia's Loretta Harrop in the final 100 metres of the closing 10 kilometer run.

Harrop had gone clear of breakaway partner Sheila Taormina of the USA on the last lap of a testing 40 kilometer cycle section and looked set for victory.

But Australian-born Allen, who had been nearly three minutes behind after the 1500 meters swim and the five-lap cycle, produced an inspired run.

The USA's Susan Williams finished third.

The 34-year-old Allen, who took on the nationality of her husband and coach Markus Schnitzer two years ago, was astounded by her win.

"It was the run of my life," she said. "I had a good group in the cycling. Swimming was perfect. In the cycling, the other women worked harder than I had expected, and the running was a surprise. I had such a great feeling today.

"I was in third place but I didn't know," she said. "My husband told me: 'You're running for a silver medal. Do you know that?'

"Then I saw Loretta 200 metres before the finish line and she wasn't going that fast and that was my gold medal."

"I would have been pleased with a top-five finish today," added Allen, who took up triathlon in 1996 after meeting Schnitzer while travelling around Europe.

"I gave it everything today," she said. "Everything came together. It was a perfect day."

Favorites led

The women triathletes took the plunge in the bay of Vougliameni for the opening swim leg and it did not take long for American favorites Taormina, a former Olympic swim gold medalist and Barbara Lindquist to set the pace.

Harrop, whose brother Luke, himself a top triathlete, was killed in a tragic hit and run road accident on the Gold Coast, came out second from the swim and formed a strong partnership with Taormina.

Williams and Lindquist chased hard but were never quite able to get on terms on a tough course which featured a vicious 18 per cent hill.

Allen was content to stay in the main pack, which also included defending champion Brigitte McMahon of Switzerland.

They came in nearly three minutes down on Queenslander Harrop, but on the three-lap run in temperatures touching 30 degrees centigrade, the complexion of race changed dramatically.

Williams tracked Harrop but American compatriots Taormina, the reigning world champion and Lindquist faded as Belgian Kathleen Smet also came charging through.

But Allen, ranked 41st in the world, was running each lap nearly a minute faster than the other medal contenders and overhauled the brave Harrop within sight of the finish line to win in two hours four minutes 43 seconds.

Her run split of 34 minutes 13 seconds was a phenomenal effort but heartbreaking for Harrop who finished seven seconds adrift.

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