Updated: August 7, 2012 7:05 AM | By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press, thecanadianpress.com

Bike crash knocks Whitfield out of triathlon

LONDON - Simon Whitfield's Olympic career came to a screeching halt after the Canadian crashed out of the triathlon early in the bike race.


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Bike crash knocks Whitfield out of triathlon

Canada's Simon Whitfield is hugged by his wife after crashing and retreating from the men's triathlon at Hyde Park during the Summer Olympics in London on Tuesday, August 7, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

LONDON - Simon Whitfield's Olympic career came to a screeching halt after the Canadian crashed out of the triathlon early in the bike race.

Whitfield suffered minor injuries after careening off his bike into a curb and metal guard-rail. He sustained lacerations to his feet — requiring stitches in his big toe — along with bruising on his shins and knees.

Competing in his fourth and final Games, the 37-year-old came out of the 1.5-kilometre swim in 15th place. He lost control of his bike shortly after leaving the transition area.

Whitfield was trying to slip his bare feet into bike shoes when he veered sharply to the left and was thrown into a barrier lining the course in London's Hyde Park. He also had contact with the front wheel of competitor Leonardo Chacun and the Costa Rican went down.

"I hit the speed bump just as I went to put my shoe on, I think," Whitfield said. "I'm not quite sure what happened. I hit the speed bump on a funny angle and ended up crowd surfing, which is good for concerts and not so good for sport events.

"My bike went out from underneath me. I have some pretty serious gashes: My big toe is stitched up, both knees have seen better days, my shins have seen better days. I've got a good goose egg on my head."

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After scrambling back to his bike, Whitfield pulled out of the race. It was a tough pill to swallow following the intense training schedule he completed before the Games.

"The hard part is the sacrifices to be away so much," Whitfield said of his wife Jennie and their young daughters. "My breakdown moment was seeing my wife because I know how much Jennie puts into this and we're a team and she's put in so much sacrifices being at home a lot alone."

The Victoria resident is one of the top figures in the sport, having won gold at the Sydney Games in 2000 and taken silver in Beijing four years ago. He was 11th in Athens in 2004. Whitfield was Canada's flag-bearer during the opening ceremony in London.

"I've had two incredible races at Olympics, I've had a pretty good race and I've had now that race," Whitfield said. "Stupid speed bump."

Kyle Jones of Oakville, Ont., was 25th and Victoria's Brent McMahon finished 27th.

A number of Canadian athletes took to Twitter with messages of condolence for Whitfield. Marathoner Reid Coolsaet thought the veteran had the potential to step on the Olympic podium once again.

"The reason why it sucks so much that @simonwhitfield crashed out is because he's in great shape and was ready for a big one," Coolsaet wrote on Twitter.

Dylan Wykes, another Canadian marathoner, said it was "devastating" to see Whitfield crash out of the race.

Kayaker Adam van Koeverden, a three-time Olympic medallist, called Whitfield his inspiration.

"In 2000 I sat in my mom's basement & watched @simonwhitfield tear the finish line down in Sydney. He inspired me to ask myself 'why not me?'"

Whitfield is an outspoken athlete. After teammate Paula Findlay finished last in the women's triathlon over the weekend, he had sharp criticism for her coach and the support team around her, whom he accused of botching her preparation.