RIO DE JANEIRO – Four years ago at the 2012 London Olympics, former Wisconsin track and field runner and swimmer Gwen Jorgensen saw her medal dreams dashed in the bike portion of the triathlon, as she suffered a flat tire.
Four years later at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Jorgensen found redemption, winning Team USA’s first gold medal in the triathlon on Saturday during the penultimate day of this year’s games.
“Gwen was meticulous in her preparation for today’s competition,” UW Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Mick Byrne said. “She carried a huge burden as a favorite, and executed a flawless race plan, showing her confidence, maturity, and belief in herself. The state of Wisconsin should be proud of her as we are here at UW.
“Congratulations to Gwen, her coaches and Team USA on making history today in Brazil.”
It marked the second time during the 2016 Summer Games that a Badger has won gold after swimmer Cierra Runge was a part of Team USA’s 800-meter freestyle relay team that claimed gold on Aug. 10.
Jorgensen finished the 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run in 1 hour, 56 minutes and 16 seconds, 40 seconds faster than Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig, who finished second.
A native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, Jorgensen completed the swim in 19:12 before heading into the bike with a lead group of 24 bikers.
The bike is known as Jorgensen’s weakness in the triathlon, but Jorgensen handled the hills and turns of Rio with ease, as she was in the top 10 for a majority of the race and ended the 40-kilometer ride in eighth.
Jorgensen took the lead in the 10-kilometer run, where she and Spirig, the gold medalist in 2012, broke away from the rest of the field.
“Obviously we each wanted to win,” Jorgensen told NBC after the race. “She was playing a bit of a game, I was playing a little bit. It made it fun and hopefully exciting for the fans.”
The two took turns in the lead before Jorgensen started to accelerate on the final lap, and Spirig couldn’t keep up.
As Jorgensen came down the home stretch towards the finish line with a 30-second plus lead, she started to tear up, knowing that she had made U.S. history.
Jorgensen is the first UW female track and field athlete to medal at the Olympics, and she is the first track and field athlete to win gold since Arlie Schardt won gold in the 3000-meter team race at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.