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08/05/2012

The best days and worst days of Olympic lives

Steve Russell Staff Photographer - @RussellPhotos

Whenever I speak to a visiting high school class and talk about my job, I always joke: "if I ever show up to photograph them, it's probably the best day of your life or the worst."

Today that little quip about my job was true for a pair of Canadian athletes on the biggest stage in the world.

One won the coveted gold, the other was the last athlete to cross the finish line.

One was coming off an injury and was just able to suffer through the race.

The other trains along side one of the biggest names in her sport and already has medals in three straight Olympics on her resume.

Triathlete Paula Findlay had won three races last year before injuring her hip. In 2010 she won in London and even though she was coming off an injury she was still considered a hopeful to medal.

Rosannagh MacLennan had won the Olympic warm-up event in the past year too, but was still in the shadow of the highly decorated Karen Cockburn.

Findlay, a world champion gave someone else the chance to win when she stumbled in the race. MacLennan's chance move from fourth to Gold was secured when the final jumper stumbled. 

Paula Findlay's race started going downhill almost from the beginning. She fell behind on the swim and battled on the bike, never making up ground on a lead group that was almost four minutes ahead of her. She really suffered on the run. On her first of four running laps she entered the stadium distressed, stopped to talk to her coaching staff and then continued to grind out the remaining three laps.

The leaders lapped her and as she entered the stadium for her last lap she passed the jubilant medalists celebrating.

MacLennan who finished the qualifying in forth, increased the degree of victory in her final routine. The three jumpers who placed ahead of her had their shots at beating her score.

The first one couldn't, MacLennan was guaranteed a bronze, ditto for the second. MacLennan and Cockburn watched the final Chinese competitor, commenting to each other all the way through, MacLennan bracing herself for a silver until ... final jump ... she misses the landing. MacLennan was all but guaranteed Gold! 

Here is where their stories merge.

MacLennan celebrated in front of a loud crowd made up of Canadians who were hungry for Canada's first Olympic Gold, Findlay entered the final stretch of the stadium to a loud crowd celebrating her courage and fortitude.

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Ducks, who usually have the Serpentine River to themselves, share the water with fifty-six triathletes.

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Paula Findlay, almost four minutes behind, works with a small group of riders to try to make up time.

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Paula Findlay already well back of the lead group battles on the bike.

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Paula Findlay approaches the stadium on her first lap of a four lap course.

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Paula Findlay, suffering, runs into the stadium to complete her first lap.

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Paula Findlay, suffering, talks to coaches before deciding to carry on.

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The lead runners cross the line in a photo finish as Paula Findlay continues her run. Swiss triathlete Nicola Spirig edges out Sweden's Lisa Norden.

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They spelt her name wrong, she had a tumble on the bike, Agnieszka Jerzyk of Poland still had a better day than Findlay.

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Paula Findlay suffering, finishes well after other competitors during the women's triathlon.

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Paula Findlay suffering, finishes well after other competitors.

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Paula Findlay's family and friends had to watch helplessly as she struggled in the triathlon. They cheered her when she came into the stadium and empathizing with her when she wa outside.

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Rosannagh MacLennan's family celebrate her gold medal, Canada's first gold of the games with her performance in Trampoline.

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Tongue out, Rosannagh MacLennan performs in qualifying.

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Rosannagh MacLennan keeps her eyes on the trampoline.

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Rosannagh MacLennan performs.

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Rosannagh MacLennan ends her final routine, she would win Canada's first gold of the Games.

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Coach Dave Ross, Rosannagh MacLennan and Karen Cockburn react to a fall by the final jumper, securing a gold medal for Rosannagh MacLennan.

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Coach Dave Ross and Karen Cockburn congratulate Rosannagh MacLennan, right,  who wins Canada's first gold of the Games.

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Rosannagh MacLennan takes in another look at the score board as she is congratulated by Karen Cockburn.

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Gold Medalist in trampoline Rosannagh MacLennan.

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The Canadian flag flanked by two Chinese flags. Had Wenna He missed one jump element earlier Karen Cockburn could have been on the podium as well, she finished 0.090 behind the bronze medal position.

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Canadians enjoy "Oh Canada"

Ryan Cochrane's Silver,

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Ryan Cochrane teammates shout him to him a silver medal in the 1500 freestyle.

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Yang Sun asks for time after he false started, it didn't seem to affect him, he won the race in world record time.

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Ryan Cochrane dives in.

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Ryan Cochrane breaks the surface coming out of a turn on his way to a silver medal in the 1500 metre freestyle.

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The Australian silver medal winning 4 x 100 medlay relay team painted  their intials on their nails.

From the track,

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British long jumper   celebrates his surprise win by kissing the flag.

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Canadian Cameron Levins keeps pace and finishes in 11th in a deep Olympic field in the men's 10,000 metres.

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In the final straight Mohamed Farah of Great Britian looks over his shoulder to see that nobody will catch him in the men's 10,000 metres. 

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Mohamed Farah bolts from the photo crew after seeing his daughter on the track.

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Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser Price wins the women's 100 m final.

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Ducks fight on the Serpentine River in Hyde Park.

 

 

 

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More great shooting Steve.

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