LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

The meteoric rise experienced by Gwen Jorgensen may have taken a detour in 2012 at the London Olympics. But she's been churning away ever since, navigating an international travel schedule and filling an increasingly populated trophy case with a focused destination of Rio de Janeiro.

It's hard to fathom how the Waukesha South graduate could run her first-ever triathlon in March 2010, then appear in that event at the greatest showcase of amateur athletics just more than two years later. A flat tire left her with a cruel conclusion to the first leg of her career, but if anyone thought that's where the journey would end, they misunderstood how Jorgensen would interpret 'tireless.'

Jorgensen, who turned 30 in April, is the favorite to become the first United States Olympic triathlon champion in Rio. When she did not win a race in Gold Coast, Australia, in early April, it snapped a mind-boggling streak of 13 consecutive elite international triathlon victories, dating back nearly two years.

Don't think of it as a sign of decline. The NBCSports coverage of the event quoted 2008 Olympic champion Emma Frodeno, who was working the broadcast of the event.

'She doesn't need to prove herself now,' Frodeno said. 'She's still thinking about August. … This could be the best thing that could happen to her, unfortunately for the other athletes.'

Singular focus

After taking 38th at the last Olympics, Jorgensen became the first U.S. woman to win an International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Series race in San Diego in 2013. She won two more ITU races in 2013, then won six more in 2014. She won all eight races she entered in 2015 and the first two of this year before taking second in Australia, where she regularly trains.

All told, she has 15 ITU championships on her resume, two world championships in 2014 and 2015 and two Triathlete of the Year plaudits, presented by USA Triathlon in 2013 and 2014. And it's all leading up to this.

'Since 2012, I have had a clear goal: I aspire to win gold in Rio,' she said. 'Everything I have done since London has been solely focused on Aug. 20 (race day). There is a big question mark as to what my goal will be on Aug. 21.'

If her goal doesn't include more competition, it will be a serious life adjustment. She lives in Minneapolis but seldom sees home.

'I spend nine months of the year away from home where I split my time between Australia and Spain,' she said. 'I typically make it home to Waukesha for Thanksgiving or Christmas.'

She was a standout on the Waukesha South swimming and diving team and went on to compete at the University of Wisconsin in both swimming and distance running, but it wasn't until 2010 that she firsmagt gave triathlon a try at the encouragement of her high school friend Maggie Lach.

'In high school, I was persuaded to run, but I did not have the same passion for running as I did swimming, even though my accomplishments came much easier,' Jorgensen said. 'After three years of swimming D1 at UW-Madison, I fully transitioned to running. It was at this time my passion to run began.'

She had finished her master's degree in accounting at UW when the USAT college recruitment program contacted her. The Olympic distance triathlon (1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run) was about to become her new sport.

'The biggest learning curve with triathlon was the cycling, and this was something I am still working on constantly,' Jorgensen said. 'I raced triathlon for three years before I believed I had what it took to be a complete triathlete. Triathlon is a balancing act across all three disciplines. For me, it takes constant and focused work in the swim, bike and run to compete at my best.

'Winning a medal — especially a gold one — would be the best way to thank my fans, family and sponsors who have so passionately backed me during this journey.'

Three for all

In the spirit of the 3-in-1 nature of triathlon, many questions to Jorgensen can be answered in threes.

3 ways training for the Olympics this time is different than the 2012 Games

·This Olympic cycle, I am in a daily performance environment where I am training with eight other women who all specialize in draft-legal racing. These women are my friends, but also my competitors.

·The Olympics is an experience and event that is so much larger than anything else I do. Experiencing this in 2012 allowed me to anticipate and better plan for 2016.

·I will not go to Olympic Village before my event. The geographical span of the games is quite impressive and from the village to my venue is over a two-hour drive. This is not conducive to my race prep, so I will stay in a hotel near the venue at Copacabana beach.

3 things people might be surprised to learn about triathlons and triathletes

·Most triathletes float around the globe to follow the race schedule and have training camps for a couple months at a time. I leave the USA on Jan. 1 and don't come back until late September.

·The triathlons I do are draft-legal, which means I ride a road bike, not a triathlon bike. My race distance is a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run, which takes about two hours to complete.

·Due to a high training load, I have to eat a surprising amount of food. The volume of food I eat shocks many.

3great places to eat around Waukesha, with that in mind

·Jimmy's Grotto. They serve Ponza Rotta pizza and this is one-of-a-kind and a must-try if in Waukesha. I love the pepperoni Ponza Rotta.

·La Estacion. This restaurant is in a train car. It's my favorite Mexican place in Waukesha, but it's also one of my favorites because it's my sister Elizabeth's favorite place to eat.

·Downtown Waukesha. Waukesha has really grown, and I love how many new, delicious restaurants are downtown. Also, the Friday night music festivals and farmers market are great. I heard there is a new place I must try when back this year: 225 So.

3of your favorite places to race or train

·Wollongong, Australia. Friday morning ocean swims are a tradition. The water is clear and clean, and the beach is usually empty as everyone is at work. It's a rare Friday when I don't see fish and baby stingrays.

·Vitoria, Spain. The run trails are endless and perfect surface with hard-packed gravel. I love to do 1-kilometer repeats, as these are great indicator of my run form.

·St. Paul, Minnesota. The Minnesota river bottom trail is a great place to ride off-road within the city. The trail is 16 miles one way and feels like you are in the country, when really, you are in the city.

3 best experiences as a competitive athlete

·I get to do a race in the Bahamas in October, and the race is on a private island. We are racing in paradise and are treated to delicious meals and wine.

·One of the best experiences I have while racing is meeting people from all around the world. I now have friends in countless countries.

·Meeting my husband, Patrick (Lemieux). I met Patrick on a bike ride in Milwaukee. He's changed my life for the better and makes me not only a better athlete, but also a better person.

3 pieces of advice or philosophies that have driven you

·It's an investment, not a sacrifice.

·Train in a daily performance environment (train in a group).

·Set process-driven goals.

3 things you want to do when your competitive career is over

·Have children.

·Have a garden and be a part of a CSA.

·Bake homemade bread.

Jorgensen has four events on her schedule before Rio, including an event May 14-15 in Japan. She has 13 sponsors and six more companies she considers partners helping her along the way.