Waukesha South alumna and elite world triathlete Gwen Jorgensen became the first American woman to win Olympic gold in the triathlon Aug. 20, a thrilling conclusion to a journey that began six years ago when Jorgensen ran the event for the first time.
Jorgensen pulled away from Switzerland's Nicola Spirig, the defending Olympic champion, during the run portion of the three-sport challenge, held at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Jorgensen ultimately won by 40 seconds with her time of 1:56:16. Vicky Holland of Great Britain claimed the bronze.
It's the first time an American woman has even medaled in the event since 2004, when Susan Williams won bronze in Athens. A relatively new arrival to the sport prior to competing in the 2012 Olympics, Jorgensen's rise was meteoric until she was derailed by a flat tire and took 38th in the London games. She has gone on to win world titles in 2014 and 2015 and won an unprecendeted 12 straight races in the World Triathlon Series circuit. Her 17 career victories on the ITU series are also a record.
The Olympic triathlon features a 1,500-meter swim, a 38.5-kilometer bike race and a 10-kilometer run.
"It's pretty crazy to show up on the day -- after four years -- and be able to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish," Jorgensen said in a release from the USA Tirathlon. "It's a huge testament to both my husband, Patrick Lemieux, and my coach, Jamie Turner. They have invested way more in me than anyone will ever know, unless they've seen us work together. This is as much their medal as it is mine."
The University of Wisconsin product stayed near the front throughout.
"I've been outrun in races," Jorgensen said. "It's an exciting race. Nicola and I were playing a bit of games, and neither of us wanted to lead in the headwind, so hopefully it made it exciting for the fans."
Jorgensen and Spirig have developed a rivalry, facing each other only five times in the past. Jorgensen had won three of those races and Spirig two.
Waukesha South is no stranger to Olympic glory. Gymnasts Paul and Morgan Hamm competed in the 2004 Olympics, with Paul winning the all-around gold medal in men's gymnastics and taking silver in the high bar. Both took the silver in the team competition.