“Fourth place is the worst position to be in but you know, we love this sport!" says a remarkably upbeat Sarah Groff.
"It would have been life changing to win an Olympic medal, but I’m really proud of the day I had out there. And you know some really great athletes over the years have never gotten a medal. It’s a pretty great club to be in; even better to be an Olympic medallist but maybe four years from now!”
You seemed to drop off the pace at one point and then surged back into the group. How?!
“Being a slightly more mature athlete I knew to just to keep my pace, run a smart race, just keep a level head. I just held a consistent pace and they came back. I know my run, I know the training that I’ve done. They put in a bit of a surge and I thought that might break a few people and in the end it did break a few… if it could have broken one more that would have been perfect.
“I know I haven’t got that high end finish yet so that’s something I have to work on but I knew that for my race I needed to be calm and collected and get back up there. There were four of us left, then there was three, and unfortunately I wasn’t in that three! I know all those girls have a great finish I was hoping to find something special but it wasn’t there. At the end of the day I can be proud of what I did.”
A few of your fellow competitors found it tough going on the road today.
“I don’t think the conditions were that bad. I think there was a combination of nerves and it was a little slippery, but it wasn’t that bad. I think people get a little jittery, it’s the Olympics, there’s all these eyes.
“But I hope someone’s got a YouTube clip cause at that moment I thought it was the highlight of the race. I mean not for the other girl. She literally crashed in front of me, I rode over her. There was nothing else I could have done! Either I crash myself or I ride over this poor girl whose lying in the road, I rode over her torso. I was looking round saying did anyone see that? That was the most insane thing that’s ever happened to me in my life! I mean I feel bad for her, but it was really epic.”
Two years ago, Aussie Erin Densham was undergoing heart surgery. Now she’s sporting a bronze medal in an Olympic Games. But in all honestly, she looks a little disappointed.
“It was tough this afternoon. I didn’t feel great this morning but I new I just had to go out there and give it my all. I didn’t feel good in the swim, but I realised I was with the main players and so that was a relief. And then on the bike it was about staying out of trouble.
"And then on the run I knew that the girls were running strong and that they had a good sprint. I did try to break them early on but they were just too strong. So kudos to Lisa and Nicola, they were fantastic. And I’m just happy to come away with a bronze medal to such fantastic athletes.
"My plan was to break as many as I could. And I saw there were still four there, but thought ‘oh, there’s only three medals!’ In the end I was just fortunate to get one of them.
Did you dream this would be where you’d end up at the start of the year?
“No. It was just tough trying to get on the start line here. I went in and won the races early on but I still didn’t do enough to get on the team. 2nd to Helen in San Diego sealed my selection on the team. Coming away with a bronze… it still hasn’t sunk in."
And you're maintaining a good record for Australia at the Olympics.
“Well that did cross my mind at the end. I was like, ‘there are four people here and we’ve won a medal at every Olympics. So I have to get one!’”
Could you see who had won?
"I thought Lisa had got it, and it was only when we were lined up to go out for the ceremony that I said you guys are in the wrong spot! Nicola was like, “No, I got it”. I said ‘I’m so sorry!’ and had to recongratulate her!"
Plagued with injuries since last winter, Lisa Norden was an unknown quantity coming into this race. Having clocked a second in Kitzbühel, she then suffered an inflamed tendon in her knee requiring cortisol injections. Resting for a week, she then had three weeks to prepare for the Games…
“I thought bugger that, this is never going to work. [But] It all came together in the last week of training, where I felt my body responded. I did some sessions where I’ve never done sessions this well before. And I was getting back to being in the shape of my life. It was just the right timing. One I got back to running, it came back to me pretty quickly. It wasn’t optimal but it worked.
And a few words for Helen…
“I feel sorry for her. She’s such a good girl and such a talented athlete. It’s a difficult race to get right. There are so many things that could go wrong. That’s just the way it sometimes goes.”
And finally the 2012 gold medallist, Nicola Spirig, and that sprint finish… did she know she’d won?
“I had a feeling [I'd won] but I wasn’t sure. I’ve never been in a finish like that before. I’d have been happy to win a medal but it’s a big difference between winning gold and silver. It’s amazing; I’m speechless.”
Your coach Brett Sutton has been championing your name for a while now…
“He actually told me how the race would go. And exactly what he said happened. I was confident that I could be up there. I saw Lisa was coming up from behind on the screen and just had to do my best to reach the finish line first.”
Images: Liz Barrett/Delly Carr