Gwen Jorgensen powers the Americans into triathlon at Rio Olympics
If at first you don’t succeed in swimming and running, perhaps you can learn cycling and take up triathlon instead. This unusual recipe has driven Gwen Jorgensen, the first American to win back-to-back world triathlon titles, when she could have been an accountant instead.
Jorgensen was active in swimming and track but gave up on her Olympic dream to pursue a master’s degree and CPA into a job at Ernst & Young upon graduation. However, she then got a hint from Barb Lindquist, one of the world’s top-ranked triathlete and a former Olympian who told Jorgensen that she could dabble in triathlon by taking up cycling.
“I was glued to the TV when they had Olympic trials on like they have now. It was just something that I really loved. But I came to the realization at a relatively young age, in high school, that I would never go to the Olympics in swimming as I just wasn’t good enough,” Jorgensen said.
She gave it a shot in 2010 and proved Lindquist right, even if triathlon as a sport wasn’t that familiar to her. She qualified for the London Games but a flat tire doomed her to a 38th-place finish and fed her fire to make amends in Rio de Janeiro.
“Every race is different and the Olympics are more different,” said Jorgensen.
Jorgensen is a heavy favourite in the women’s race Aug. 18 at Copa Cabana Beach, where the men’s race will be held Aug. 20. The 1,500-meter swim, a 24.9-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run on Copa Cabana Beach features a challenging hill.
“The course is really good. It’s tough. There’s a big hill on the bike and I think that makes it an honest course and everyone is going to be tired. It’s going to be interesting to see how quickly you run after … that really hard bike ride,” said Jorgensen, who qualified for Rio by winning the triathlon test event on Aug. 2 on the course.
She has 17 career wins and 21 medals on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit. The sport’s two-time defending world champion, she had an unprecedented unbeaten streak stretching from May 2014 and April 2016 that produced a dozen consecutive first-place finishes.