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LOS ANGELES TRIATHLON

Feet Don't Fail Walton in Victory

September 08, 2003|John Ortega | Times Staff Writer

As Craig Walton neared the finish line of the fourth Los Angeles Triathlon on Sunday, it would have been easy to assume that the race had taken little toll on the 27-year-old Australian.

He was giving high fives to cheering spectators along the course and pumping his arms skyward with his index fingers extended as he approached the end of his second consecutive victory in the elite men's division.

Not long afterward, however, Walton was limping noticeably and looking for a shady spot to sit down and attend to a blister on his foot.

"You try and soak up the crowd out there supporting you," Walton said of his celebratory actions. "You've got to show them your appreciation for what they're doing for you during the day."

Walton, who earned $8,000 for his victory, was timed in 1 hour 49 minutes 32 seconds in the Olympic-distance race that began at Venice Beach with a 1.5-kilometer ocean swim. That was followed by a 40-kilometer bike ride that ended in downtown Los Angeles and a 10-kilometer run that finished at El Pueblo de Los Angeles near Olvera Street.

Walton's clocking was 1 minute 20 seconds slower than his time last year, yet his performance in warm, sunny conditions was more impressive because he won by more than 3 1/2 minutes.

Simon Lessing, a five-time world champion for Britain during the 1990s, was second in 1:53:11. Australian Craig Alexander, runner-up last year, was third in 1:55:36.

"I just had a great race from start to finish," said Walton, who won his second consecutive Chicago Triathlon on Aug. 25. "It was certainly tough, and I didn't think I was going that well. Halfway though the bike [ride], I thought [Simon] was going to catch me. This is just a hard course, and you get disillusioned. Even though you are going well, you think you're going bad."

Walton, who was a competitive swimmer growing up, had a 72-second lead after the swim stage, and his advantage had grown to more than four minutes after the bike ride.

The women's race, won by Becky Gibbs Lavelle in 2:08:06, was much closer than the men's.

Gibbs Lavelle and fellow Americans Nicole DeBoom and Julie Swail were virtually tied after the swim, but DeBoom took a 30-second lead during the first 10 miles of the bike ride.

Gibbs Lavell, bronze medalist at the Pan American Games last month, caught her five miles later and extended her advantage to 24 seconds at the start of the run. She won by nearly a minute as DeBoom finished in 2:09:01 and Swail in 2:10:05.

"She just took off really fast in the first part of the bike," Gibbs Lavelle said of DeBoom. "She got away ... but then I started to see her get a little closer and I thought, 'OK. This is good.' "

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