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BEIJING (Reuters) - Sydney gold medalist Simon Whitfield took the Olympic silver for Canada, while Germany's Jan Frodeno won the gold medal on Tuesday in a dramatic sprint to the finish.
New Zealand's Bevan Docherty won the bronze in the baking hot Beijing swim-bike-run event.
Frodeno, a former swimmer and surf-lifeguard who took up triathlon eight years ago while living in South Africa, because a girl he fancied did it, battled with Docherty and 2008 world champion Javier Gomez of Spain, both heavily tipped for gold, for front position in the last two laps.
But the German, whose nickname is "Frodo," strode ahead at the final bend, overtaking all of them and leaving Gomez in fourth place, a full 20 seconds behind his finish time of one hour, 48 minutes and 53 seconds.
"It was a moment I had dreamed of so many times in my head. During the race I told myself: 'Boy, be greedy -- it's champagne or fizzy water'," an overwhelmed Frodeno said afterwards.
"I tried not to think that the others behind me were the fastest guys and the most famous triathletes. he said, adding he had learned his lesson from losing a lot of sprints this year.
The all-round fitness event came down to a running race, as the best sprinters held back and then surged past the winners of the swim and bike sections in the four-lap final section.
Frodeno, whose gold medal surprise came a day after his 27th birthday, punched the air triumphantly after breaking through the ribbon at the Ming Tombs reservoir course north of Beijing.
Gomez has dominated his sport this year despite an abnormal heart valve that kept him out of competitions for several years.
The 11-times world cup winner, who prefers racing in cooler weather, said he tired himself out when he bolted ahead and ran the first two laps in a spectacular 14 minutes 10 seconds to make up for lagging badly coming out of the bike transition.
"I just had a not very good day on the run," said Gomez, adding that it had been hard to run fast in the 31 degree Celsius (88 degree Fahrenheit) heat and 84 percent humidity.
"I got tired. I did train well but today there were three athletes better than me," he told Reuters.
Whitfield said Gomez's exasperated rivals decided ahead of the Games that the way to beat him was to join forces and all run against him. "We all raced today watching him. Everywhere he went in the pack, we all knew where he was and paid attention."
For Docherty, beating Gomez was not quite enough, however.
The mop-haired New Zealander has gained a tiresome reputation for always coming second or third.
"I'm super happy to get another medal. I'm slowly building up a collection. Unfortunately I'll have to go to London to get the gold," he said.
Additional reporting by Erik Kirschbaum and Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson