Germany's Anne Haug took the ITU Grand Final title but Sweden's Lisa Norden the 2012 ITU World Championship in an action packed day of international action in Auckland on Saturday.
Non Stanford (GBR) was the first world champion to be crowned on Saturday as she outlasted the Netherlands' Sarissa De Vries and Canada's Joanna Brown in the Under23 women's championship.
Then Haug stormed home to cap off her breakthrough season with a Grand Final win, ahead of Gwen Jorgensen (USA) and Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI). But Norden's fourth place was enough to secure the overall 2012 gold, with Haug winning silver and Andrea Hewitt (NZL) bronze.
The Under23 men finished the day, with yet another close finish, this time Aaron Royle (AUS) just held off Fernando Alarza (ESP) and Thomas Bishop (GBR).
Elite Women's Review
Germany's Anne Haug overcame a tough course and stiff opposition to win the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Auckland on Saturday. The victory was the finishing touch to her breakthrough season and also catapulted her to number two in the overall series rankings, making her the ITU World Championships silver medallist.
"It's been a good season, and it's the final highlight and I can't believe that I'm here," said Haug. "I'm like in a bubble and I hope I can believe it when everything settles down. It was a perfect race and unbelievable."
American Gwen Jorgensen staged a ferocious comeback to finish behind Haug in second, while posting a race-best 34:10 run split. Barbara Riveros Diaz took the bronze in the race, sweet redemption for the Chilean after last year's Grand Final disappointment.
Lisa Norden (SWE) finished fourth in the Grand Final which was more than enough to secure the 2012 ITU World Championship, capping off a breathtaking season in which she won silver at the Olympic Games and collected two series wins.
Sandwiched between the Under23 women's and men's races, 44 elite women began the day with a chilly two-lap 1.5km swim. Rachel Klamer (NED) emerged from the water first, followed closely by Aileen Morrison (IRL), Sarah Groff (USA) and Jessica Harrison (FRA). Also in the front pack were Norden and Erin Densham (AUS), which looked to set up a tremendous clash for the World Championship.
But Densham, who had been sick all week, couldn't keep up on the tough Auckland course and dropped from the lead group and fell further behind. Unable to continue, Densham eventually pulled the plug and called it a day.
In stark contrast, Haug attacked on the bike early and bridged up to bring her and the rest of the chase group even with the leaders on the third lap.
Further down the field, a group of about ten women were still in pursuit of the leaders. Among them were stellar runners like Jorgensen and Ashleigh Gentle (AUS). But that pack wasn't making any progress as they continued to lose time on the leaders with every lap.
Coming into T2 was the leading 19 women who now owned a lead of a minute and 15 seconds over the chase.
Out onto the 10km run course, 12 women ran together up front including Norden, Andrea Hewitt (NZL), Groff, Riveros, Haug, McIlroy, Klamer, Ainhoa Murua (ESP), Jodie Stimpson (GBR), Flora Duffy (BER), and Juri Ide (JPN).
But the lead out of T2 wasn't as comfortable as it may have appeared as Jorgensen was busting through the field. Haug, however, would not be denied gold as she surged ahead to the finish, stopping the clock at 2 hours, 10 minutes, 48 seconds to record the biggest win of her career.
Jorgensen hammered the run course with the fastest time by 40 seconds to come all the way back and out-sprint Riveros for the silver.
Norden, who later revealed she went to hospital overnight to be treated for food poisoning, finished in fourth place, collecting enough points to be crowned ITU World Champion. She added to her illustrious collection that includes Olympic silver, the ITU Sprint World Championship and an Under23 World Championship.
Home favourite Hewitt finished seventh in the race which was enough to lock up bronze in the series. Despite entering the race as the series leader, Densham fell to fifth in the overall rankings after failing to finish. Click here to read the full review
2012 Barfoot&Thompson ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Auckland
1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run – Final Results – Elite Women
2012 ITU World Triathlon Series – Final Rankings, Elite Women
Image: Delly Carr/ITU