Canadian athlete Simon Whitfield, who has won a silver medal in triathlon at the Beijing Olympics, says he was thrilled to represent Canada again.

Whitfield, 33, stayed with the pack through most of the race but pulled ahead in the final few hundred metres, in a brilliant display of grit and determination.

"I kind of battled my way back I thought I had the momentum so I may as well try and put it away and if they want to beat me they were going to have to dig deep," Whitfield told CTV's Canada AM.

He finished in a time of one hour 48 minutes 53 seconds, just five seconds behind Germany's Jan Frodeno.

Whitfield said he thought for a moment he might have caught up to Frodeno, so he was still grappling with the fact that he hadn't won after the end of the race.

"I didn't know how to react, I was kind of just standing there in a bit of daze thinking I can't believe this just happened," Whitfield said. "And to win the silver medal and, like I said, to represent Canada was thrilling for me."

New Zealand's Bevan Docherty captured bronze, while Spain's Javier Gomez, the top-ranked triathlete who was favoured by some to win, came in fourth.

Whitfield had finished fifth at a World Cup event Des Moines, Iowa, before heading to Beijing this month.

Eight years after he captured gold in Sydney, and four years after a disappointing eleventh place finish in Athens, Whitfield said the race in Beijing was completely different.

The gruelling race started with a 1.5-kilometre swim in the Ming Tombs Reservoir, followed by a 40-kilometre bike race and a 10-kilometre foot race. The 55 competitors competed in 28-degree Celsius heat with 80 per cent humidity.

Whitfield, who has fine-tuned his positive attitude and competitive edge, said while air quality was not a problem at the venue, the course was a real challenge.

"The course was just spectacular. It was a very, very difficult course, it was very hot and it was a hilly, tight course, but a particularly hilly run course. So coming up that hill, especially the fourth time...the depth of your fitness really shows."

Whitfield -- a native of Kingston, Ont., who now resides in Victoria, B.C. -- was joined in the race by two other Canadians: Paul Tichelaar of Edmonton, who finished 28th, and Colin Jenkins of Hamilton, who finished 50th.

Whitfield had urged Triathlon Canada to bring Jenkins to Beijing, so they could use team tactics in the race, according to a report in The Globe and Mail. The plan was to have Whitfield draft Jenkins during the bike race to conserve energy for the final run.

During Tuesday's race, Jenkins led Whitfield in the water and during the first few kilometres of the bike event. Whitfield said both Jenkins and Tichelaar were key to his win.

"To come back and to battle back a couple of times and to have just the wonderful preparation, the wonderful team we have, to all come together like that, it was just spectacular," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press