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With the news that Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen is returning to triathlon to make a push for the 2024 Paris Games, our writers and editors got to talking – who else would we like to see make a return to multisport glory? Our picks vary from an XTERRA legend to middle-distance specialists and short-course stars – including one that our writer insists we’ll see toe the line against Gwen in Paris.
Yes, according to Wikipedia, Benno is half a century old right now, but he was always one of those guys you couldn’t count out. No, I wouldn’t stick him v. Alex Yee in a Super League supersprint, but I feel like the wily Aussie never shone on the long-course scene as well as he could have. I watched this guy do something special and become one-half of the “richest couple in triathlon” (pro triathlon, anyway) with his incredible string of victories in the Lifetime Series back in 2007. He did the impossible then, and I think he could do it again at the iron distance—given another shot. And even if he went out in a blaze of glory, you know he’d probably podcast the whole thing live…
–Chris Foster, editor-in-chief
My pick: Heather Wurtele, who notched 60 career professional triathlon podium finishes and more than 30 wins, including 25 at the half-iron distance and seven at the full distance. But her dominance isn’t the reason why I’d like to see Wurtele come back (though I would have loved to see her take on her beloved Ironman St. George course at this year’s Ironman World Championships in May). Instead, it’s the fact that she was so good at the sport without taking it too seriously. In every interview I’ve done with her, she would drop some insane wisdom (“Belief is the absence of negativity” is something that sticks with me to this day) and then follow it up with something irreverent and hilarious. She lived in an RV with her husband (fellow pro Trevor Wurtele) and their adorable cat, went on crazy adventures all over the world, and refused to follow anybody else’s idea of what she should do. Case in point: One year, instead of racing Kona, the Wurteles did an “Islands Far From Kona Tour,” where they raced (and won) Challenge Family events in Europe. She served as a perfect example that winning and fun can coexist – and triathlon needs far more of that.
–Susan Lacke, senior editor
Danish triathlete Helle Frederiksen had an 11-year career spanning the Olympics, ITU series, and long-course triathlon. Frederiksen overcame many struggles throughout her triathlon career from back injuries, bike crashes, and nagging asthma, yet she persevered in the elite ranks of the sport. Frederiksen is a 10-time 70.3 champion and her 3:55 finish at Challenge Bahrain, a half-distance race, is the second-fastest recorded female 70.3 finish time of all time. Frederiksen was known for her friendly demeanor with fierceness on the race course as she found finish line after finish line despite her injuries and setbacks. She retired from professional triathlon in 2019 due to a stress fracture in her tibia, but has remained active in the sport as a coach. I think Frederiksen still has some speed in her across all three disciplines, and I would love to see her come out of retirement to further spice up the 70.3 women’s circuit.
–Kristin Jenny, contributor
I’d like to see the return of the Caveman to the XTERRA World Tour, so that he could teach these young bucks hopping over from World Triathlon racing a thing or two about riding a mountain bike. There was no cherry-picking the XTERRA world title when Conrad Stoltz reigned over Maui, and I think if the world title were on a hard enough course (like the old one in Maui), the 49-year-old could be in the mix. I haven’t spoken to him in a few years, but the last few times I have, he’s either been building mountain bike trails around his home or riding mountain bikes. He probably hasn’t lost much, and the unique XTERRA World Tour for 2023 features a handful of really tough bike courses where he could still dominate. Come on back, Caveman.
–Brad Culp, contributor
For happiness’ sake, let’s bring back Chrissie Wellington. She bowed out at the top of her game and moved on to do bold things in her life in line with her values of supporting and empowering others. But in our fantasy tri world, we’d love to see her return to the race course. She’s an athlete who always brought determination to her racing, she was inspiring to watch, and we’d cheer her all the way on the Queen K in Kona. We all know you can always smile when you’re winning, but we’d bet money on Chrissie smiling wherever she was in the race pack.
-Melanie Mitchell, brand director
I know for certain I’ve made the most realistic – and most intriguing – choice because I actually believe that this might happen. For those unaware, Nicola Spirig announced she was hanging up her trisuit this season. She did that Sub8 exhibition – tick – and a handful more races – tick, tick – that were really just her going through the motions. After all, unless she is using it as Olympic prep, long course has never much been her thing. Hell, we hardly ever see her at all in tri post-Olympic year.
But look, the London 2012 winner and Rio silver medallist (behind Gwen, lest not forget) is only 40. She only has three children, and she’s only done five Olympic Games, and she’s only just turned 40. In Tokyo, she finished sixth, so she’s also not so far away at all. And now Gwen’s back. Who’s to say she doesn’t want another cat-and-mouse conversation on the last lap of an Olympic medal dash in Paris? Not me, that’s for sure. There’s unfinished business here. Set your Swiss clocks for Paris 2024.
–Tim Heming, contributor