Amazing Sports Stories 7: Speedy Gwen

She’s like a predator, ready to pounce. Triathlon commentator

Mow them down in Edmonton?

By Roger Childs

EdmontonEdmonton is a beautiful, well designed city with huge areas of green space and was the setting for the climax of the world triathlon season in late August. American athlete Gwen Jorgensen was expected to win the ITU (International Triathlon Union) trophy for 2014 and only needed to finish in the top 15 in the Edmonton race to achieve this. She is an outstanding athlete with the ability to catch other triathletes on the final running leg. However, would she have the motivation and performance to end the season with a bang?

Relatively new to the sport

Jorgensen runningJorgensen emerged as a competitive triathlete in 2010 and was picked in the US team for the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately she punctured in London, ending her hope of a medal. However, she had a very good ITU season in 2103 with four podium finishes and became US Female Triathlete of the Year.

Her running has always been her great strength and she has won a number of races coming from behind in the final leg. However, she needed to work on her cycling and swimming to avoid being too far behind at the final bike-run transition.

In triathlon it’s imperative to get in the lead bunch on the bike as it is difficult to bridge up from behind. Chase packs often fall further and further behind, especially if the leaders drill it at the front. Could Jorgensen make the lead biking group in Edmonton? No.

Slipping further behind

The commentators were convinced that Jorgenson could give the rest of the field about 80 seconds off the bike and run them down. So when she emerged from the swim just 16 seconds behind, they were picking her to be in the front bike pack and consequently an easy winner overall.

But Jorgensen couldn’t catch the leaders on the bike. As so often happens, her chase pack started losing ground on the 40km cycle.

  • After 7.5 km – 41 seconds
  • After 10km – 45 seconds
  • After 20 km – 58 seconds
  • After 25 km – 70 seconds
  • After 32 km – 81 seconds.

The chance of victory in the grand final was inexorably slipping away.

But then compatriot Sarah Haskins, who is a strong cyclist, came to the rescue and paced Gwen through. In the last 7 km they pulled back 14 seconds.

Afterward Jorgensen commented I owe her a lot. I am very grateful she was there.

The dream run

The rest of the women can’t control Gwen Jorgensen when she gets on the run. Barrie Shepley “The Voice of Triathlon”.

It would still be touch and go. Jorgensen started the 10km run

  • needing to pull back 67 seconds
  • chasing 18 of the best female triathletes on the planet.

Meanwhile out front the three place getters in the previous weekend’s sprint triathlon in Stockholm – American Sarah Groff and Kiwis Andrea Hewitt and Nicky Samuels – had left the rest behind. In lap 2 of four, the Kiwis dropped Groff and the prospect of a magnificent one / two for New Zealand was a real possibility.

However Gwen Jorgensen had other ideas. The gap steadily narrowed and the American systematically picked off the 18 in front of her.
~ 8km to go: 49 seconds
~ 6km to go: 35 seconds
~ 5km to go: 17 seconds.

JorgensenBy the start of the final lap she had joined Hewitt and Samuels and after a short stay said goodbye.

Jorgensen eased away and beat Hewitt by 16 seconds and Samuels by 26. This was her fifth victory in a row and cemented her position as 2014 World Champion.

It was one of the great victories in triathlon history.

Barrie Shepley summed up what it all meant: This will make her the greatest female runner ever in the sport of triathlon.