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With the potential to take home six figures and the world champion title on Friday, American Gwen Jorgensen knows all eyes—and Olympic hopes—are on her.
American Gwen Jorgensen is the undeniable favorite going into Friday’s women’s elite race at the ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Chicago—both to win the race and to win the overall world champion title. With 11-straight wins on the WTS circuit, the phenom has flawlessly executed a string of gold medal performances and recently solidified her spot on the 2016 Olympic team. We caught up with Jorgensen ahead of Friday’s race.
Triathlete.com: Being from Wisconsin, the Grand Final is almost a home race for you this year—does that add pressure or excitement for you?
Jorgensen: Racing in the USA is exciting. Last year the fans were amazing and really pushed me to the finish line. The atmosphere was uplifting and motivating and I can’t wait to compete on home soil again.
Because it’s also the age group world championship, there will be loads of athletes racing in a USA kit. Although I won’t know everyone racing, I do know everyone has worked extremely hard to get on the Chicago start line. It will be exciting to share that experience with all of the other athletes.
Triathlete.com: How have you spent your time between qualifying for Rio and this Grand Final race?
Jorgensen: The last six weeks have been great. Immediately after Rio, I went on vacation with [husband] Pat to the Pyrenees in France where we did some iconic Tour [de France] climbs. After France, we drove back to the Basque region where I had five weeks of uninterrupted training.
Triathlete.com: Why did you decide to sit out two consecutive WTS races?
Jorgensen: In the fall of 2014, [coach] Jamie and I put together my race schedule. We knew Rio was a major event and I would need some time to recover from that. Sitting out Stockholm and Edmonton was always my plan. The WTS scores five races plus the final, which gives athletes the opportunity to tailor their race schedule specific to them.
Triathlete.com: This season is unique in that there were two big events—Rio test event and Chicago Grand Final—on the calendar. How do you manage the balance of being in top condition for both?
Jorgensen: Honestly at the beginning of the year I told Patrick and Jamie if I did nothing this year except qualify for the Rio Olympics that this year would be a success. So, it was quite difficult to mange my emotions and get back in the racing mindset post Rio because emotionally I felt like I accomplished everything I needed to do this year. With that said, I took a mini holiday with Patrick in France and got re-energized and focused for Chicago. I am very excited to race, especially in front of a home crowd.
Triathlete.com: Who will be out supporting you on the course?
Jorgensen: I feel fortunate to have so many supporters in Chicago. I can’t wait to spend some time with them. I have relatives flying in from all over the country, some of who I haven’t seen for years. I also have lots of friends and former [University of Wisconsin] Badger teammates coming out to cheer. I hope they enjoy the race.
Triathlete.com: What does Pat usually say or do when he sees you racing?
Jorgensen: Well, if the race is going poorly, look in the nearest bar for Patrick. I remember one race I DNF’d and couldn’t find Patrick. A man recognized me and asked if I was looking for a tall, handsome man. I said yes and the man pointed inside a bar. Usually on race day, Pat and [Coach] Jamie both don’t say much. They prepare me to race and on race day it’s just up to me to perform.
Triathlete.com: What about this course makes it difficult compared to others?
Jorgensen: On paper, the Chicago course may look easy, however there are a ton of “dead turns” that you have to accelerate out of. The wind could also play a major factor on race day. With the U-turns and wind, your legs can be very fatigued on the run if you aren’t prepared.
Triathlete.com: Do you have any pre-race rituals you always stick to?
Jorgensen: I go hard in all three disciplines the day before the race to “open up” and get my body ready. I also eat oatmeal for breakfast on race day, but I do that almost every day so maybe that’s just a daily ritual.
Triathlete.com: With a crazy winning streak must come more places to be and people to see—can you talk about the difference outside of the race of last year compared to this?
Jorgensen: It can be very time consuming, but it’s something I’ve been able to adapt to with the help of my support crew. I also have changed my mindset on it, which is beneficial. Instead of not understanding why others want to see or talk to me, I view the time as an opportunity to hopefully get people active and excited about triathlon and sport. I hope others realize the investments and hard work it takes to compete and hope they use that as motivation to become the best they can be in whatever they decide to do.