Jorgensen never dreamed of becoming an Olympic athlete. Even during
college, when she reached All-American status in track, she didnít
have her sites set on representing the United States at the games.
Her plan was to
be an accountant for Ernst & Young in Milwaukee, after earning her
undergraduate and masterís degrees from UW-Madison.
Life led her
down a slightly different path in 2010 following a phone call from
Barb Lindquist of the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program.
Now, the world
will be watching as Jorgensen competes in the 2012 Olympic Games in
London after qualifying for the U.S. triathlon team in August ó just
one year after entering the sport.
watched the Olympics and thought it was awesome, but I never dreamed
of being there. Now itís just amazing and a huge, incredible
honor," Jorgensen says.
To say Jorgensen
is a natural when it comes to swimming and running is an
understatement. Her rapid success in triathlon is astonishing,
reaching the podium as a pro in less than a year.
But talking with
the 25-year-old Waukesha native, you would never know of her
incredible accomplishments. Her enduring smile and humbling attitude
shine through. The competitive edge is left at the finish line and her
appreciation for life and the people in it takes over.
"I look up
to a lot of people: family, teammates, etc. I am super blessed with
the support around me," says Jorgensen.
Her journey to
becoming an athlete started at the age of 7, when she joined the
Waukesha Express Swim Team.
in swimming because my parents had a pool," Jorgensen says. She
explains that her parents, Nancy and Joel Jorgensen, put her in
swimming lessons and on a swim team where she fell in love with the
In high school
she joined the track team at Waukesha South High School.
"Swimming was my first love, but I knew in high school I had more
of a natural talent for running," she says.
competing in the two sports in college, where she swam her freshman,
sophomore and junior years. At the encouragement of her high school
track coach, Erich Lehman, she tried out for the track team halfway
through the season and made it. "I stopped swimming my senior
year and did cross country and indoor and outdoor track."
In less than a
year, she made All American for outdoor track. "I felt incredibly
blessed and was just having a ball with it and wasnít thinking much
contacted her during graduate school about joining the USAT Collegiate
Recruitment Program, she wasnít that interested.
I had this great job lined up with Ernst & Young. I had my career
set," she told Lindquist, who suggested she could keep working
and compete in triathlons on the side.
... and fell in love. I think if I would have stopped after college I
would have missed the competitive nature of sports. Itís something I
donít get in the corporate world," she says.
official race was in Clermont, Fla., in March 2010, where she received
her pro card despite a difficult race. "I got my butt kicked and
I thought, ĎWhat am I doing?í" Although swimming and running
were second nature for Jorgensen, biking was a another issue. She
spent a lot of time in the saddle before her second race a month later
at the World University Games in Valencia, Spain, where she took
She credits her
leap in standings to time on the road. "All the focus was getting
comfortable on the bike and getting the skills on the bike."
Schuler has been great with teaching me the skills; he has been a
great help," says Jorgensen. Schuler owns Team Sports Inc.,
Wauwatosa, a company that manages the Timex Multisport Team, and is
one of Jorgensenís sponsors.
"A big part
of athletic performance is preparation, which leads to confidence,
which leads to success," says Schuler. "Cycling was Gwenís
weakest link in triathlon, and I have been fortunate to be able to
help her identify and focus on the cycling skills that have yielded
the biggest bang for the buck."
Since then, the
Waukesha native has been making her mark on the triathlon world and is
setting her sights on the Olympic Games.
forward to being a part of Team USA, just having that spirit there and
bringing the entire nation together and experiencing that," she
former Olympian, will help Jorgensen train for the big event. "I
will help Gwen prepare mentally for London, which requires an extra
dose of focus and mental preparation. This will be Gwenís most
important athletic event to date, and I will do everything I can to
help her be 110 percent prepared," Schuler says. "Besides
Gwenís significant natural talent, her balance, discipline and
mental toughness are rare. She has been a pleasure to work with for
the past year, and the best is yet to come."
Although she has
yet to set her 2012 racing schedule, she plans on competing before
setting off for London. "I will definitely get a few more races
in because itís good experience and fun."
will continue to teach her how to put an entire race together more
efficiently. "To compete at this level, Iíll have to learn to
put together every aspect of the race ó as the other girls I am
competing against execute on race day. I am shocked that I am able to
compete with the girls I race against; they are amazing
athletes."Learning to execute on race day comes with plenty of
training time. Jorgensen averages 20 hours a week, depending where sheís
at in her training cycle.
exhausting schedule; one that might drive many athletes to burn out.
But with her trademark positive attitude, Jorgensen is taking it all
in stride ó and one race at a time.
myself competing in the sport as long as Iím still having fun, and
have the opportunity to race," she says. "I am fortunate to
be healthy and be able to race at the level Iím at, and I look
forward to taking it one year at a time." m