It was a modern-day Cinderella story: a tax accountant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, turned Olympic gold medalist. Gwen Jorgensen was made for prime time, and Olympic commentators at the 2016 Rio Games breathlessly recounted how a random phone call changed the course of her life.
“Have you ever considered triathlon?” asked the voice on the other end. Barb Lindquist’s job was to identify single-sport athletes who showed Olympic potential in triathlon. Jorgensen, a former collegiate swimmer and runner at the University of Wisconsin, was at the top of her list.
At first, Jorgensen laughed. She firmly believed her athletic days were behind her after graduation. Though she won a handful of 3,000 and 5,000 meter races in her collegiate career, her times were hardly competitive in an Olympic context. Also, she didn’t know how to ride a bike—and wasn’t that a prerequisite for a sport that combined swim, bike and run?
Lindquist acknowledged that the odds were stacked against Jorgensen, but there was something there. “We think you’d be quite good at it,” said Lindquist. “Just give it a try.”
In Jorgensen’s first triathlon in 2010, she came in second place. By 2012, she had earned a spot at the London Olympics, where she placed 38th after a flat tire on the bike. She spent the next four years declaring her intent to win at the 2016 Games, no matter what. In a stark contrast to the London Games, she had a near-perfect race in Rio, outrunning defending champion Nicola Spirig of Switzerland.
In the span of only six years, Jorgensen rocketed to the top of the sport, with an unparalleled 17 World Triathlon Series victories, two world championship titles and the first U.S. athlete to win Olympic gold in triathlon. She was all but a lock for a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Two-time ITU World Champion to pursue professional marathon racing
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — U.S. Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen today announced her plans to officially transition from professional triathlon and pursue a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in the marathon. Jorgensen, who last year in Rio de Janeiro earned the United States’ first-ever Olympic gold medal in the sport of triathlon, makes the announcement after not competing in the 2017 season to give birth to her first child in August.
“Gwen will be forever remembered crossing the finish line in Rio to claim the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics, a true watershed moment in the history of USA Triathlon,” said Barry Siff, President of the USA Triathlon Board of Directors. “But she has also personified the ultimate role model for all athletes by continually giving back to the sport through efforts like the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship. On behalf of every triathlete in the U.S., I wish Gwen — as well as her husband Patrick, and their new son Stanley — great joy, success and happiness in every possible way.”
“USA Triathlon brought me into this sport, and now I’m incredibly privileged to step away at the top, with an Olympic gold medal. Though my near-future training will be focused on winning gold in the marathon in Tokyo, I will always be a part of the USA Triathlon family and look forward to embracing every opportunity to help grow the sport of triathlon. In fact, I hope this new adventure in running will play a big part in doing exactly that,” Jorgensen said.
“Gwen has left an indelible mark on triathlon in this country and lifted the sport’s profile to unprecedented heights through her remarkable career over the past eight years,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “As a highly accomplished athlete who is yet so balanced in other areas of her life, Gwen has always served as a tremendous ambassador for USA Triathlon and will be sorely missed. We fully support her decision to pursue new dreams as a full-time marathon runner, and wish Gwen and her family nothing but continued success in this exciting new chapter.”
A standout runner and swimmer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jorgensen was recruited into the sport in 2010 by USA Triathlon through its newly developed Collegiate Recruitment Program (CRP). That year she balanced work as a Certified Public Accountant at EY (formerly Ernst & Young) with training during her first season as an elite triathlete. She was named the 2010 USA Triathlon Rookie of the Year after a standout season in which she earned three podium finishes as a pro.
Jorgensen made the choice to pursue triathlon full-time in 2011, and claimed three ITU World Cup podiums. She qualified for her first U.S. Olympic Team in 2012 and was one of the United States’ top medal contenders in London, but suffered a flat tire on the bike and finished 38th overall.
Her 2013 season included a USA Triathlon Elite National Championship title, three ITU World Triathlon Series (WTS) victories and a bronze medal at the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships.
Jorgensen went on to post a record-breaking 2014 season in which she became the first woman in ITU World Triathlon Series history to win eight career WTS events and five in one season. She claimed victory at the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final and earned the overall world championship title, becoming the first U.S. triathlete — male or female — to win a world title since 2004. Jorgensen’s 2014 season also included a win at the inaugural Island House Triathlon, a two-day stage race in the Bahamas.
In 2015, Jorgensen went undefeated in seven WTS starts and extended her win streak to 12. She became the first U.S. athlete to win back-to-back ITU World Championships, and punched her ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games with a victory at the Rio de Janeiro ITU Qualification Event. She capped her historic season with a successful defense of her title at the Island House Triathlon.
Though her win streak was broken with a silver-medal finish at ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast in April 2016, Jorgensen earned two more WTS gold medals and a bronze as she built toward the Rio 2016 Olympic Games that August. She also helped the United States capture its first-ever ITU Mixed Relay World Championship title in June 2016 alongside teammates Ben Kanute, Kirsten Kasper and Joe Maloy.
As the heavy favorite in Rio, Jorgensen outran defending Olympic champion Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and claimed the gold medal, becoming USA Triathlon’s first-ever Olympic champion. She covered the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run in 1 hour, 56 minutes, 16 seconds, crossing the line 40 seconds ahead of Spirig. Jorgensen went on to place second at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final that September and take silver in the overall 2016 WTS rankings.
“It has been both a pleasure and an honor to work with Gwen over the years and to see her evolve from a newcomer in the sport to dominating the world’s best fields in Olympic-distance triathlon,” said Andy Schmitz, USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager. “Her accomplishments have permanently raised the bar within our U.S. National Team Program — for both women and men. And I have no doubt that her strong commitment to excellence will translate to a tremendous career in marathon racing.”
Shortly after the 2016 Olympic Games, Jorgensen announced her plans to run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, as well as her intention to start a family with husband Patrick Lemieux. Racing in her first-ever marathon, Jorgensen placed 14th in the elite women’s field with a time of 2:41:01.
She announced her pregnancy in January of 2017, and welcomed baby boy Stanley Allen Lemieux on Aug. 16.
Known for her strong run, it was a common sight for Jorgensen to make up significant deficits on competitors coming off the bike. In June of 2016, she overcame the largest deficit in ITU World Triathlon Series history in Leeds, England. Trailing Bermuda’s Flora Duffy by 1 minute, 40 seconds at the start of the run, she ran a 33:29 10k and won the race with a 51-second margin over Duffy.
Jorgensen leaves a legacy in the sport through the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship, which she launched in 2014 to assist junior draft-legal triathletes and paratriathletes in their pursuit of excellence in the sport. More than $90,000 has been awarded to date in conjunction with the USA Triathlon Foundation, which contributes a matching grant. The recipients of the 2017 scholarship will be announced on Nov. 10. Gwen has also directly supported female development athletes by volunteering as a mentor coach at the USA Triathlon Junior Select Camp in Colorado Springs.
For Jorgensen’s personal announcement on Facebook, click here. For her complete career results and bio, visit usatriathlon.org.
These events go back to the summer of 2014 when we had the 1st “Pro’s vs “Amos” contest (“amos” is just a rhyming abbreviation for “amateurs”). There was achocolate chip cookie bake-off followed by adodge ball tournament. There was laughter and tears. *It was mostly the laughing and the cookies that inspired us to keep this “challenge” going.
Since then we’ve invited many strong, fun women to join in on the shenanigans. While the cast of women is ever changing (life happens), the spirit of this event never will. This will always be a somewhat silly celebration of the pure joy we all have for our sport.
Pros & Amos: Tri-Style
In a digital-cyber-y version of 303’s famous Pros v. Amos challenges, we pit famous local “Amo” Katie Macarelli opposite a couple “Pro” athletes you may have heard of… Olympic World Champion Gwen Jorgensen & Professional Triathlete Alicia Kaye! And we’re talking about how Pros live their athletic lives and learn their lessons, compared to Amos… What it’s like as a female role model, mistakes they’ve made, and how they’ve overcome obstacles along the path to stardom… Read on to find out who’s a brainiac with multiple degrees… who hurdles barbed wire fences with ease… and who’s favorite prize ever was 20 pounds of steak.
Here’s some background:
GWEN JORGENSEN Gwen Jorgensen is a professional triathlete from St Paul, MN. Gwen is a 2x Olympian, 2x World Champion (2014, 2015), and 17x ITU World Triathlon Series race winner. She also likes to read, try new foods, and hang out with friends and family.
2016 Olympic Champion
2015 World Champion
2014 World Champion
2012 U.S. Olympic Team Member
2013 USA Triathlon’s Triathlete of the Year
2014 USA Triathlon’s Triathlete of the Year
2015 USA Elite National Champion
2014 USA Elite National Champion
2013 USAT Elite National Champion (Sprint and Olympic Distance)
First USA Woman to win a World Triathlon Series race
15-time ITU World Triathlon Series Winner
2010 USAT Rookie of the Year
2010 USAT Elite Duathlete of the Year
ALICIA KAYE Alicia grew up in Canada and began participating in triathlon when she was 11 years old; she became a professional triathlete at the age of 14. Alicia spent her teen years racing triathlon while juggling her academic studies. While completing her undergraduate degree in Sport Psychology she met fellow triathlete and now husband, Jarrod Shoemaker. Since meeting Jarrod she has began racing for the United States and also completed her masters degree in Athletic Counseling. Some of Alicia’s proudest moments include winning Canadian Junior National Championships in 2001, and winning the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in 2013. In her spare time Alicia works as a mental trainer and runs a skincare company with her husband Jarrod, called Endurance Shield.
And our “Amo,” KATIE MACARELLI Katie is a Colorado native who grew up on a dairy farm on the Eastern Plains. She got her start in the Colorado cycling scene competing in triathlons for about five years until she realized that running is the worst. She’s a mom of two teenage girls, a year-round bike commuter who hates driving but loves cyclocross. She is currently the marketing manager for Feedback Sports.
Here we go! 1. Have you ever googled yourself? Any oft-repeated MISconceptions out there that you’d like to clear up? Any rumor or tall tale that just keeps popping up on Wikipedia? Here’s your chance to set the record straight. And if not, give us your best pretend fake fact.
GJ: I’ve googled my husband, Patrick Lemieux, but don’t google myself. I think one thing people may assume is that I come from a running background, however I actually come from a swimming background and didn’t start running until I was a junior in college.
AK: Yes, I’ve googled myself. It almost always just to find an image or to find articles written about a recent race. Maybe once every few years I’ll look to see if anyone is saying something mean or false, but I’ve never found anything truly negative.
KM: I work in the digital marketing realm, so of COURSE I have. The only misconception I’ve ever found was an article that listed me as living in Portland. I’ve never actually been to Portland, but it sounds lovely. *I generally disregard everything past page 5 on google, because it’s like reading the comments on Pinkbike. It will just make you mad and/or confused.
2. How has your rise to fame affected your performances? Has there ever been a time when the spotlight really helped you? Or worked against you?
GJ: I am an introvert, so it took some time to get used to the media attention and fans walking up to me. I now enjoy being able to share my experiences, but still need my alone time to recharge.
In 2012, after I qualified for the Olympics I had a bunch of media engagements lined up for the week of a WTS race in San Diego. I did an all day photo shoot along with other media the week leading into the race and I believe this contributed to my poor performance. I think I almost finished dead last.
AK: I had my breakout year in 2013 winning the Lifetime Series and Toyota Triple Crown. I thought it would be this ultra grand moment where everything would change. But life went on as normal, the money and/ or result didn’t change any of my relationships- we were just able to make a big fat mortgage payment instead;) What was interesting was in 2014 I really struggled to find purpose and meaning after achieving all my goals in 2013, trying to replicate them again in 2014 was an entirely different experience.
KM: I’m not famous, but I do find it hard to get to the start line to any race because I often stop to hug, heckle and/or say hello to friends. As it turns out, missing the start of a race directly impacts your performance.
3. Please provide five single-word adjectives that best describe you and what makes you tick.
KM: Enthusiastic. Loud. Empathetic. Droll. Indefatigable. (You said single-word, so I didn’t think I could use “over-caffeinated”)
4. Have you experienced being asked media questions different from your male counterparts that you attribute to gender? What’s your best example?
GJ: Can’t think of one off the top of my head, but I also try not to read into questions too much. I also have a poor memory so may have been asked something but have forgotten. I do believe there should be equal prize money for men and women (which there is in ITU which I love).
AK: This is a great question, I think our sport is pretty good about equality but the biggest gender difference I notice is that it’s ALWAYS the male winners picture in a newspaper article. Media outlets within our sport tend to include pictures of the women’s winner and why is the men’s race always written about first?
KM: No, because the media isn’t interested in me. However, I’ve been in many eye-rolling situations as a female working in a male dominated industry. I feel our industry (and society in general) is getting better about this but I still got called “Hon” only a few months ago by a guy my age who was visiting our office. I can assure you that I’m not his “Hon.”
5. What is the best PRIZE you’ve ever won, in your entire life of racing (maybe it was that 2nd grade field day ribbon…)?
GJ: Any prize that involves food! In 2015 I won a gravel road race and won 20lbs of steak.
AK: I won a race down in Tobago a LONG time ago, back in 2005 I think. The trophy was a beautiful wooden carved sea turtle, it’s still hanging on my wall at home.
KM: I won a pair of Tough Girl socks and a pint glass for 3rd place in my first ever Cx race (I raced it on my full suspension Yeti 575). I was instantly in love with cyclocross and bought a Cx bike about 4 months later
6. Race Day prep – name three best practices you always adhere to the night before a race… and three things you always avoid. What is your best example of a time you didn’t follow your own rules, and things fell apart?
GJ: Don’t try anything new (once I ate out in Japan and tried a dish I’d never had before and got food poisoning)
-Relax/put my feet up
-Avoid: unnecessary stress, being on your feet all day, and new foods.
AK: I don’t go to bed until I feel sleepy, I eat the same thing (chicken and rice) and I prepare everything the night before leaving race morning to be fairly stress free. Three things I always avoid the night before a race are any foods that contain caffeine, any foods high in fiber, anything my body isn’t used to.
KM: Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Race prep. That’s funny. Here are my “3 best practices”:
-Start looking for my wetsuit at about 10 pm. and run a load of laundry.
-Eat a bowl of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs and pack my bag in the dark so I don’t wake my family.
-Get a good, solid 4 hours of sleep.
Three things I avoid (due to life in general plus an incessant desire to self-sabotage):
-Consistent, focused athletic training.
-Having enough ______________ to make success an option (fill in the blank with any of the following: sleep, water, food, peace of mind, clean clothes, gas in the car etc)
Best example of things falling apart:
An example where things went wrong: Pretty much every race I’ve done since I turned 35. Recently, I had to hop a barbed-wire fence and run through a ditch to find the start-line. Good thing I grew up on a farm.
7. If you’re a Pro, do you ever find yourself wishing you were an Amateur? And if you’re an Amateur, every wish you were a Pro? Why?
GJ: I love what I do and am thrilled to be able to also make it my living. I do hate training when the body is tired and it is pouring rain outside.
AK: I went pro at such an early age that I almost can’t remember what it’s like to race as an amateur. Triathlon has been my life since I was 14 years old, and I began participating in them at 11. I think what I’ll miss when I don’t race as a pro someday is a clear course!
KM: Nope. Waaaaay too much pressure. I race because it helps me conquer my fears, which is a good example for my daughters and other women. Oh, and also: its good preparation should things go south and we find ourselves in a post-Apocalyptic scenario. If I had to do that as a job, I’d undoubtedly get fired.
Feedback Sports’ Omnium portable resistance trainer makes traveling easier.
Golden, Colo.-based Feedback Sports built its reputation on making the very best in bicycle repair equipment. Work stands, tool kits and bike racks are its bread and butter. But when company founder Doug Hudson met a machine shop owner with an engineering background who showed him a two-drum, fork mount, foldable trainer, Hudson couldn’t resist getting into stationary trainers. He loved the smooth rolling drums and the progressive resistance magnets hidden inside the cylinders. He kept and patented those features on the Omnium, this little marvel of flight-friendly gear.
The front half was re-engineered to make it fold to stow like Feedback work stands. It’s just over two feet long folded up and weighs under 14 pounds. Feedback says in its tote bag, the Omnium is an easy carry-on. In fact, Feedback staffers have field-tested this claim by flying with the Omnium, successfully clearing TSA checks and slipping it into overhead compartments. It’s an ideal piece of equipment for triathletes traveling with their bikes; Gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen set one up on her balcony in Rio, and Helle Frederiksen stayed loose on an Omnium in her hotel room while prepping to race the Island House Tri in the Bahamas.
Gwen Jorgensen made a last minute appearance at 24Hr Fitness in Colorado Springs last weekend. Kris Kuckenbacker, a triathlete from Colorado Springs, describes his experience for us:
I first found out that Gwen was going to be at the COS 24Hr Fitness Thursday morning (November 10th) from the local tri club social media page, just two days before the meet and greet was to occur. It was a very basic post and just said “Gwen Jorgensen will be at 24 Hour Fitness in Colorado Springs this Saturday,” that was it. I searched the comments and was further able to find out that it would be from 11:30-1:00. Oh Great!
That was the exact same 90 minute window I had a scheduled a massage for earlier in the week. Skeptical, I searched online to see if I could verify the information and came up empty. Regardless, I rescheduled the massage and decided to go to the gym the following day and see what the deal was myself. Sure enough, a large poster was on the entrance window with Gwen’s photo and pertinent details for the meet and greet. I was excited!
My girlfriend, and fellow triathlete, was down from Denver for the weekend and was just as excited as I was for such an amazing opportunity to meet the ITU legend and Olympic Gold Medalist. We took magazines, the recent USA Triathlon quarterly publication and the August issue of Triathlete, both with Gwen’s picture gracing the covers for her to sign.
I’ve never met anyone and had them autograph their picture before, that added a little awkwardness while standing in line. We were surprised how few people were there, which was a good thing as neither of us are fans of large crowds.
The moment came and we walked up to Gwen. I got increasingly nervous as we approached and realized I wasn’t in any way prepared for a verbal encounter. I stayed a few steps behind my girlfriend, trying to hide behind her tiny frame, as she engaged in conversation with a very humble and genuine Gwen Jorgensen. They started with a little race and triathlon small talk which transitioned seamlessly and quickly into real life events and girl stuff as though they were long time friends.
When her attention turned to me, I shook her hand and introduced myself in which she replied “Hi, I’m Gwen.” All I could muster as a response was “Yes, yes you are”. I was literally speechless and embarrassed. We got our magazines signed pictures taken with Gwen, then headed to brunch. All we could talk about was how amazing it was to meet such an icon of the sport, and how authentic and real Gwen was to everyone she met.