Course unsafe, says Montgomery
SYDNEY (CP) -- Carol Montgomery called the Olympic triathlon course unsafe Saturday after a frightening crash knocked her out of the race and jeopardized her chances of running in the 10,000 metres later in the Games.
The 34-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., a favourite to win a medal in the first triathlon in Olympic history, said the winding course was too narrow and that contributed to the trail of athletes strewn over the course in eight separate collisions.
Teammate Sharon Donnelly of Kingston, Ont., also crashed on the bike but managed to get back up and finish the race.
"It's definitely the course," Montgomery said at a news conference following the race. "The men usually have a crash or two, but it's so rare that the women crash. This race and the Sydney race in April were really bad, so it's definitely the course.
The 40-kilometre bike route was especially tight, she said, because people were leaning over the fence and waving their flags, which took up another half-metre to metre of space.
"Along the way there's manhole covers or potholes," she said. "They come up on you and you can't see them. It's just not a good course to have a drafting race on. It's not tough in terms of the hills and the climbs, but it's the most unsafe one."
Montgomery said even an orange line painted in front of hazards would help. She said that a problem in her sport right now is organizers are planning courses with spectators, not safety, in mind, with motorcycles on the course to accommodate television.
Montgomery, who expects this to be her first and last Olympics in triathlon, spoke without bitterness and was even able to laugh at the horror of hitting the pavement so hard it destroyed her helmet and inflicted hip and hand injuries that may prevent her from running the 10,000 metres on Sept. 27.
"There's nothing you can do so you just get over it," she said. "I'm just glad I'm not in the hospital with something broken."
She planned to have her wrist X-rayed Sunday for a possible fracture.
The track event has always been much closer to her heart than the triathlon because she loves running.
"I know I'm going to be a lot more sore tomorrow," she said. "I'm not going to run if I don't think I can do well because I'm not going to go out there and embarrass myself on the track because when you've got that many people in the stadium, everyone sees what you're doing. I just wouldn't want to do that to myself after what happened today."
Montgomery's disaster happened early in the third lap on a straightaway, when Britain's Sian Brice and New Zealand's Evelyn Williamson touched wheels. Brice, who appeared to be reaching for her water bottle, flew off the bike to her right and took down Montgomery.
That was after Donnelly had a similar mishap on the second lap. Donnelly collided with two others going down in front of her. She managed to finished a bloody and bruised 38th. Isabelle Turcotte-Baird of Quebec City was the top Canadian in 31st.
Donnelly wouldn't entirely blame the course, but said the pressure of the Olympics perhaps made some of the riders make rash decisions.
"There were jitters out there and I was prepared for that, but I didn't think it would affect that much in the bike," she said. "I think people were doing some dumb things out there. They were nervous and changing lines and being a little skittish."
From crashing Canadians to a foot race to the finish, women's triathlon made a dramatic Olympic debut. The host Australians were hoping for a medal sweep to open the games, but Switzerland's Brigitte McMahon outkicked home-town favourite Michellie Jones in a thrilling finish that brought the crowd in front of the Sydney Opera House roaring to its feet. The Swiss made it gold and bronze as Magali Messmer finished third.
Montgomery wanted to be in that mix, but at the time of the crash she was in a precarious position at the back of the second pack of riders and almost a minute and a half behind Jones.
Montgomery has had to overcome obstacles in her career. She considered retiring almost a year ago because of a chronic leg injury.
Surgery restored her to strong form, but at the world championship in Perth, Australia, in May, she finished second on a course that was later discovered to be two kilometres short on the run, which is her strength.