Gwen Jorgensen: Background, career highlights, quotes

One of the most decorated American triathletes of all time, Gwen Jorgensen won two world titles and Olympic gold in a comparatively short career, not to mention a phenomenal and unprecedented 12-race ITU winning streak. Here we chart how she did it and what she plans to do next… 

Who is Gwen Jorgensen?

Overall a handful of seasons in the mid-2010s, Gwen Jorgensen became a legend of Olympic-distance racing, taking two world titles and Olympic gold.

If records are there to be broken, Jorgensen smashed them with gusto, most notably recording 12 consecutive World Triathlon Series victories over two seasons.

Her style was distinctive: stay in contention over the first two disciplines and allow her superhuman run pace to overpower all of those ahead of her.

A college swimmer and runner, Wisconsin-born Jorgensen had already embarked on a corporate career as a tax accountant when she was persuaded to take up triathlon professionally in 2010.

It took only a year for her to make an impression on the sport, reaching the podium in only her third WTS race. And, 18 months later, the ITU gold medals started showering down upon her.

In 2014, she took her first world title with five wins in five successive races. By the time she scooped her second world crown the following year, Jorgensen has remained unbeaten, securing the title with her 12th consecutive WTS win.

The Olympic title followed in 2016 in Rio, where her billing as the overwhelming favourite never looked in doubt. World championship silver came in its wake the following month.

But never again did she take the start line of an ITU race. After giving birth to her first child, she then set her sights on running the marathon in the 2020 Olympics, a dream that then diverted to long-distance ambitions on the track.

Towards the end of last year, Jorgensen announced plans to return to triathlon after a five-year absence. Unwilling to train and travel to the depth and distance that she did at her peak, being a member of the USA’s mixed relay squad at the 2024 Paris Olympics is the new goal.

And, such is Jorgensen’s pluck, resolve and talent, there aren’t too many who would bet against that happening.

How old is Gwen Jorgensen?

Gwen Jorgensen was born on 25 April 1986, making her 36 years of age.

Gwen Jorgensen’s career highlights

Gwen Jorgensen is showered with champagne after winning the 2014 ITU world title in Edmonton, Canada. (Credit: Delly Carr/ITU Media)

May 2010: A first world silver

At the FISU World University Triathlon Championships in Valencia, Jorgensen’s second place justifies her decision to put her accountancy career on hold to pursue sporting excellence.

Another silver, this time at the Pan-American championships in Mexico, follows, ensuring she’s named at the USA’s Rookie of the Year.

August 2011: Another silver – this time an ITU medal

L-R: Gwen Jorgensen (2nd), Helen Jenkins (1st) and Anja Dittmer (3rd) on the podium at the 2011 ITU World Championship Triathlon, London. (Credit: Paul Cunningham/Corbis via Getty Images)

In only her third World Triathlon Series race (after a DNF in Madrid and coming 27th in Hamburg), Jorgensen truly announces herself on the world stage, beaten only in London by home hero Helen Jenkins.

The following weekend, Jorgensen tastes success for herself, taking gold in the World Cup race in Tiszaújváros in Hungary.

August 2012: Disappointment on her Olympic debut

It’s not such a happy return to London 12 months later when, on the bike leg of the Olympic race, Jorgensen suffers a flat tyre, ruling her out of contention for a podium place. She finishes a disappointing 38th.

April 2013: A maiden WTS victory

Recently crowned US national champ, Jorgensen becomes the first American woman to win a WTS race with victory in San Diego, having reeled in Non Stafford and Emma Moffatt on the run in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.

It’s the first of many encounters that Jorgensen will have with the top step of the WTS podium. She wins again in Yokohama three weeks later.

May 2014: More Yokohama success sets streak in motion

Gwen Jorgensen wins the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Series Yokohama. (Credit: Getty Photo/ITU, Delly Carr)

When Jorgensen eases to a second successive victory in Yokohama, she has no idea that this is the beginning of the most extraordinary winning streak in WTS history.

August 2014: The world is her oyster

A fifth consecutive WTS victory comes when Jorgensen breaks the tap in Edmonton, in the process becoming world champion. To emphasise the rude health of US triathlon, her compatriot Sarah Groff takes second overall in the series.

March 2015: The winning streak continues…

A new season simply means business as usual for Jorgensen. At the opening race in Abu Dhabi, she puts in a run leg that’s almost a minute faster than that recorded by anyone else, allowing her to beat fellow American Katie Zaferes by 16 seconds.

September 2015: A second world title in the bag

In imperious fashion, Jorgensen steam-rolls the opposition in Chicago, extending that streak to an extraordinary 12 straight ITU wins.

Again, she’s able to compensate for any deficiencies on the swim and bike with run splits far in advance of anything any of her rivals can muster. In truth, genuine rivals are in short supply.

July 2016: A third world title – this time a collective effort

L-R: Joe Maloy, Kirsten Kasper, Gwen Jorgensen and Ben Kanute from the United States celebrate winning the 2016 Mixed Relay World Champs in Hamburg, Germany. (Credit: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

At the mixed relay world championships in Hamburg, Jorgensen spearheads an American victory, with Team USA holding off the challenge of a strong Australian squad. It’s Jorgensen’s third world champs gold in less than two years.

August 2016: Top spot on the Olympic podium

Gwen Jorgensen takes the tape to win triathlon gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. (Credit: Getty Images)

The strong favourite as the Games headed to Rio, on Copacabana Jorgensen copes admirably with the pressure on her shoulders, keeping in close contention on the swim and bike before splitting from the pack on the run in the company of defending Olympic champion Nicola Spirig.

A tactical race between the two then ensues, with plenty of mindgames deployed by both athletes, before the American puts the pedal to the metal to take Olympic gold.

September 2016: Silver in Cozumel, silver overall

Gwen Jorgensen runs out of transition at the ITU World Championship Grand Final in Cozumel, Mexico. (Credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

The fairy tale of a hat-trick of solo world crowns doesn’t quite materialise as Jorgensen finishes second in Mexico to Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who also takes the overall title. It is Jorgensen’s last-ever WTS race.

Three months later, she announces she’s expecting her first child. The following November, she retires from triathlon in favour of running marathons.

Gwen Jorgensen quotes

On winning her 12th consecutive World Triathlon Series race at the Grand Final in Chicago in 2015: “It is just crazy. I never thought that I would be able to keep on winning even at times when I was not feeling well. Even today, things were pretty touch and go.”

On winning the Olympic title in 2016 ahead of Nicola Spirig: “I have been out-run in races, so it was an exciting race. Nicola and I were playing a bit of games when neither of us wanted to lead into the head wind, so hopefully it made it exciting for the fans.”

On returning to triathlon for the 2023 season after five years away from the sport: “I was super-inspired at Tokyo watching Team USA get the silver medal in the team replay, so that is what is really motivating me to come back to triathlon.

“This comeback is about way more than myself. I’m really motivated in returning to not only inspire my family, but also USA Triathlon.”

What’s next for Gwen Jorgensen?

After half a decade away from multisport, during which she focused on marathon and track running, along with bringing up her two young sons, Jorgensen will be returning to the triathlon arena this season.

However, this is not to upgrade, like many others in the late afternoon of their careers, to long-distance racing. The world of endurance events is being swerved for a new chapter competing in mixed relay.

Don’t bet against the Wisconsin wonder bagging another world crown or Olympic title.

Top image credit: Delly Carr/ITU Triathlon