Team 24 Hour Fitness and Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen supports the future of her sport.
Gwen Jorgensen was a champion swimmer, but she always assumed her Olympic dreams were just that – dreams. In fact, when she was recruited as an adult to train for a triathlon, Jorgensen never had competed as a cyclist or even used clip-in pedals!
With her employer’s encouragement, Jorgensen left her accounting career and began her next one as a Team USA contender. Jorgensen has had to work very hard to earn her recent Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro, and as she came to her sport relatively late, she is making it a point to support youth athletes and triathletes in their fitness journey.
In anticipation of Jorgensen’s appearance November 12 and 13 at USA Triathlon’s Junior Elite Women’s Select Camp (for top-ranked 15 to 17-year-old athletes), at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, 24Life asked Jorgensen to tell us more.
24Life: Why is supporting junior athletes so important to you?
Gwen Jorgensen (GW): The triathlon community welcomed me into the sport when I didn’t even know what ITU (International Triathlon Union) was. I was given a coach, a bike, and other mentors (such as Tom Schuler) who gave me personal lessons and asked for nothing in return. The generosity of the triathlon community convinced me to give triathlon a shot. Without others’ support, help and belief in me, I would not have even tried triathlon.
I knew that I wanted to also give back because I have been given so much in the sport of triathlon. Supporting juniors is something I’m passionate about, because junior athletes are motivated, excited and still learning. As a junior, you have a lot going on between school, training, friendships and discovering who you are as a person, and life can get pretty complicated. I love being able to share my experiences with junior triathletes and hopefully be able to give some insight into what I’ve learned to help them improve as well.
24Life: You started training to be a triathlete later in life. Has that influenced your work to recruit younger athletes to the sport?
GW: I didn’t even know triathlon was an Olympic sport until I was in my 20s. I want to change that and make more people aware of the sport at an earlier age.
24Life: Where did the idea for the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship start?
GW: My husband and I wanted to donate some money but we couldn’t decide where. We kept researching different charities and couldn’t find one that really resonated with both of us. Patrick came up with the idea of creating something that was our own, giving back to the triathlon community. It was the perfect idea!
24Life: Any advice for junior athletes?
GW: My advice for junior athletes is to have fun and to find a good training group. I have the most fun and improve the most when I am training with other athletes. Connecting with a good coach and other juniors to train with is key. It will not only help you improve, but also make training more fun. Also, I try to help juniors understand the difference between outcome-based goals, and process-based goals. As a junior, body types change, life is busy, and often outcome-based goals can become unattainable, but focusing on the process is something achievable.
24Life: The training regimen for triathlon is not only physically intense, it’s also incredibly mentally demanding. What’s the most important thing about mindset that you want young athletes to know now, when they’re starting out?
GW: Focus on the process, which means focusing on technique. If you are able to do this, you will see improvement and be able to keep growing. Also, make sure to take a break. Don’t focus on getting in more miles and yards, but instead, focus on technique. Quality over quantity. The goal is to get the most out of the least.
24Life: What is one thing you learned about the physical aspect of training that you wish you’d known as a younger athlete, or the one thing that surprised you that future competitors should know?
GW: You may not see improvement right away, but if you are focusing on technique and the process, you will eventually make a breakthrough. It takes time to improve and every day you won’t be getting the best times. Learn to focus on technique instead of the times. It’s not always about getting more done in less amount of time. Often, we need rest to improve.
24Life: You hold the record for the first and only complete undefeated season (2015). What other records/barriers do you hope to see broken, either by you, or future generations of triathletes?
GW: I love triathlon because the sport is always changing. Swimmers, cyclists and runners are evolving into world-class triathletes. I’m excited to see triathletes push limits in all three disciplines. Every triathlon course is different, which means that course times often don’t matter in the sport. There isn’t a course world record or anything like that, which I quite enjoy. It’s all about showing up on race day and getting the work done. Records will always be broken and I hope no one looks at records or undefeated seasons or anything of the sort, because I think this can be a limiter. Instead, each individual needs to go out and compete his or her hardest in every competition.
Colorado members have a chance to meet Gwen Jorgensen at an exclusive meet and greet event at 24 Hour Fitness North Colorado Springs (7720 N. Academy Blvd. Colorado Springs, CO) on Saturday, November 13, 2016 from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm.