Erin Densham was driven by Australia's proud past in the event as she battled magnificently to claim an Olympic triathlon bronze medal.

As Switzerland's Nicola Spirig dipped to edge out Swede Lisa Norden for the gold medal in the closest ever finish in Olympic triathlon, Densham added another chapter in her country's Games history in the sport.

Densham did everything she could to break her opponents in the front bunch on the final 10km run leg in London's Hyde Park, producing a series of surges as rivals dropped away one after another.

But she could not quite stay with Spirig and Norden in the finishing sprint, coming in two seconds behind.

The Australian women have won medals in every triathlon since the sport made its Games debut at Sydney 2000.

"That did cross my mind at the end - `there's four people here (at the front) and we've won a medal at every Olympics, I have to get one'," said Densham.

Densham has been through hell since finishing 22nd at the Beijing Olympics, where Emma Snowsill triumphed.

She had minor surgery to fix a heart problem, then needing four months off in 2010 because of a hamstring injury.

At the start of this year, she was only a remote chance to even make the Olympic team and her stunning form surge thereafter was the main reason for the selection dramas that followed.

After suffering a pre-race flat tyre and then feeling ordinary during the 1.5km swim and 43km cycle, she did her best to break clear for the gold medal.

One victim of the Australian's withering pace at the end was British pre-race favourite Helen Jenkins, who finished fifth.

But Spirig and Norden were too strong, the Swiss won in an hour 59 minutes and 48 seconds.

The Spirig-Norden sprint was so close that Densham did not realise who had won until they lined up for the medal ceremony.

But Densham's bronze and what she has overcome was only one part of the Australian story in this race.

  • Beijing bronze medallist Emma Moffatt had big medal hopes again, but she crashed out early in the bike leg, suffering gravel rash and bruising.

  • Emma Jackson, 20, who had suffered from illness ahead of the Games, showed her vast potential with a well-executed eighth placing.

  • Somewhere in London was Snowsill, the Beijing Games gold medallist.

When Densham went from Games outsider to selection certainty, it helped create a shambolic situation where the confirmation of the team was delayed.

In the end, it came down to Jackson and Snowsill, who unsuccessfully appealed her non-selection.

The Australian female triathletes have been notable for their near-misses, selection controversies and outstanding results at the Games.

Densham joins Michellie Jones (silver, 2000), Loretta Harrop (silver, 2004) and Snowsill and Moffatt as the Australian triathlon medallists.

"We walk away - a fantastic result from Erin in a fantastic race, one of the most exciting I've seen," said head coach Shaun Stephens.

"But obviously (we have) mixed emotions with Emma Moffatt crashing, knowing she was in terrific form and in a terrific position."

NZ Newswire

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