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Australia's Emma Snowsill runs to Olympic gold in triathlon

With the finish line a few meters away, Australian Emma Snowsill had time to grab a flag, slow down and wave as she won gold in the Olympic triathlon Monday.

"We came so close in Sydney and Athens," Snowsill said. "To come from a nation that's so strong, like Australia, in terms of triathlon, it's a fantastic feeling to finally bring home the gold medal."

Snowsill finished over a minute ahead of the field in the swim-cycle-run event Monday. Vanessa Fernandes of Portugal won the silver, and Emma Moffatt of Australia took the bronze.

Snowsill pulled away toward the beginning of the final leg, a 10-kilometer run she completed in 33 minutes, 17 seconds. Her overall time was 1:58:27.66.

"There's nothing like running scared," said Snowsill, whose run leg was over a minute faster than the field. "I put every ounce of energy into this."

Australia is a triathlon hotbed, and the first Olympic medals in the sport were awarded in Sydney in 2000. That year, Aussie Michellie Jones was second in the women's race.

In 2004, Australia native Kate Allen took the gold - while competing for Austria. She came from way behind to pass Australia's Loretta Harrop seconds before the finish line. The following day, rival New Zealand went 1-2 in the men's triathlon.

Snowsill was the world champion in 2003, 2005 and 2006, but she didn't make the Australian team that competed at the 2004 Olympics.

"It was a great motivation for coming to Beijing, but that has never been a sore spot for me," she said.

At one point, Snowsill appeared to have been sent in the wrong direction before quickly hopping over a barrier to return to the course. That didn't cost her any significant ground.

Fernandes, the 2007 world champion and a 20-time World Cup winner, seemed happy to finish second after placing 10th at the world titles this year.

"This medal is silver but it's like gold," she said. "I think it is good for Portugal and good for Europe to put some girl on the top three."

Helen Tucker of Britain, this year's world champion, finished 21st.

The weather was quite warm on a day with little haze. The air quality didn't seem to be an issue.

Lauren Groves of Canada, Lenka Zemanova of the Czech Republic and Irina Abysova of Russia pulled out after a crash that appeared to involve about seven cyclists.

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