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Not long ago Gwen Jorgensen was more focused on climbing the corporate ladder than scaling an Olympic podium.
A college graduate and chartered accountant, it was 2009 and time to get on with a promising business career. Time to start pounding the pavement in search of work and stop chasing sporting dreams.
Recruiters knocked on Jorgensen’s door but they were more impressed by her academic performance than results accumulated in a decorated but unspectacular athletic career as a swimmer and runner at the University of Wisconsin.
Among the group of headhunters, however, was former Olympic triathlete Barb Lindquist, who was intrigued by Jorgensen’s well-rounded athletic resume.
A member of the Wisconsin swim team for three years before switching to track and cross-country where she was an All-American in both, Jorgensen’s skill set convinced Lindquist that she had potential to win an Olympic medal in an event the United States has surprisingly had little success in.
“She has that Type A goal-orientated personality and to have the swim run combination from college is kind of unique,” Lindquist, who heads the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program, told Reuters.
“The swim gets you in the game but it’s the run that’s going to win the game and her run is the best of the triathletes in the world.”
When first approached Jorgensen expressed little interest, telling Lindquist, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Her grasp of the sport was limited to a passing curiosity of the gruelling Ironman, and the idea of putting herself through that type of torture held no particular appeal.
The Olympic dream was one Jorgensen never really had and she was already started down a promising career path with a job at accounting firm Ernst & Young.
“I didn’t really know much about triathlon and it just wasn’t something that interested me,” said Jorgensen. “I had full time job lined up and I was just kind of excited to get on with that portion of my life at the time.
“It’s strange, growing up I never dreamed about going to the Olympics … I watched the Olympics, I thought they were so cool, I loved everything about them but it was never something that was my dream.”
Read more: Reuters.com