Canada's Sarah-Anne Brault came close to her first career podium on the World Triathlon Series on Sunday by finishing fourth at the season-opener in Auckland, New Zealand.
"I'm super happy," said the 24-year-old from Winnipeg. "It is so much higher than I expected. It is ridiculous."
Charging out of the second transition in 16th spot after the punishing 40-kilometre bike course, Brault took the lead of the chase pack in fourth after the first of four laps on the pavement. Brault held that position until the final 500 metres.
"I really worked on learning to swim over the last two months so coming out in the lead group was awesome today," said Brault. "I came back in the bike and the biggest thing in the run was not to get intimidated by the names around me. I knew I can run. That is what I do."
With Britain's Jodie Stimpson, world No. 1, running comfortably to gold, Germany's Anne Haug pulled away from the pack for the silver medal, leaving Brault in a fight for the bronze with Britain's Helen Jenkins.
Brault matched Jenkins shoulder-to-shoulder, but ran out of gas once hitting the blue carpeted finishing stretch where she was forced to settle for fourth spot.
Brault completed the course with a time of 2:09:15 while posting the fourth-fastest 10-kilometre run time of the day at 35:29. Her previous best was an 11th-place finish in Hamburg, Germany in 2013.
Stimpson held on to the back of a bike breakaway before smashing the run to take the season-opening race with a time of 2:08:34. Haug turned on the jets in the second half of the run to clock-in at 2:08:59 for the silver while posting the fastest run split time. Jenkins held off Brault with a bronze-medal time of 2:09:10.
Three other Canadian women suited up on Sunday with Brault. Joanna Brown, of Carp, Ont., was 17th (2:12:06); Calgary's Ellen Pennock finished 23rd (2:13:28); while Victoria's Kirsten Sweetland placed 29th (2:15:13).
Andrew Yorke, of Caledon, Ont., was the lone Canadian to finish the race, placing 27th with a time of 1:58:56. Kyle Jones, of Oakville, Ont., and Victoria's Andrew McCartney pulled out mid-way through the race and did not finish.
Spain's Javier Gomez won for the third straight time in Auckland. The Olympic silver medallist, and reigning World Champion posted a golden time of 1:54:13.
Gomez outlasted Jonathan Brownlee, who was forced to settle for the silver medal with a time of 1:54:33. Australia's Aaron Royle rounded out the men's podium in third at 1:55:49.