If it wasn’t for a flat tire, 71-year-old Bill Marshall may have repeated as triathlon world champion in Beijing, China, for his age group.

Instead, in what the retired Santa Rosa obstetrician chalked up to racing luck, Marshall ended up on the podium in second place, winning the

Bill Marshall in 2010. (PD FILE, 2010)

silver, at 50 seconds behind Dave Robinette of Denver.

“It is just part of racing. Unfortunately it happened at the big race,” Marshall said. “As it was, it turned out OK. I was counting on first place, that was disappointing. I told him that if I had to lose anyone, I was glad it was him.”

Marshall was defending the gold medal he won a year ago in the ITU World Championships in Auckland, N.Z., for 70- to 74-year-old men.

Marshall is also the reigning USA Triathlon Age Group National Champion, a title he won in August that also gives him a spot for the world championships next year in Hungary.

At the Beijing race, held Sept. 11, Marshall was on the second of three laps in the Olympic stadium when he had a flat. He pulled over, uttered a few dark words and thought his race was over.

“A Chinese lady came up to me and said 300 meters up the road they will help you. I had no idea what she meant, because you aren’t allowed to get any help. But I rode on a flat rim, and they had 10 wheels lined up, it was an official wheel exchange,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the flat cost him four minutes, but he made up most of it during the run, coming up just 50 seconds short.

Marshall’s time for the .9-mile swim, 24.2-mile ride and 6.2-mile run was two hours, 54 minutes and 46 seconds. Robinette finished at two hours, 53 minutes and 56 seconds.

“Usually the competition is so close if you flat you are pretty much out of it. But in this case with the wheel exchange, which is not usually available, I was fortunate,” Marshall said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or