U.S. Triathlon team member Gwen Jorgensen has a simple philosophy: “there is more to life than sports.” It’s a surprising attitude for any athlete, but particularly shocking coming from an elite professional who is intensely training for the 2012 Olympics in London.
But it’s the secret to Jorgensen’s success.
A standout in track and swimming in high school, Jorgensen participated in college athletics at the University of Wisconsin, where she swam and was an All-American in both track and cross country. After graduation, she embarked on a career in accounting. But she still wanted sports to be in her life, and her athletic talent didn’t go unnoticed. She says, “I was recruited by USA Triathlon and they set me up with a great coach. I missed competing, being a part of a team, and I missed having a core training group.”
When Jorgensen recalls her high school and college days, her fondest memories are not of races won, but of “traveling with the girls on long bus rides, watching movies and just being part of a team.” So she became a triathlete.
Jorgensen adapted quickly to the sport, winning the 2010 USA Triathlon Rookie of the Year award. Last year, she was the USA Triathlon Elite Race Series Champion. Now, as a 2012 U.S. Olympic Team qualifier, she is focused on winning gold at the London Games. But she still reminds herself that life isn’t just about sports. She says, “Growing up, I focused too much on my swimming; it became more a part of my life than it should have been. I realize now my sport is only part of me. I’ve been given this huge blessing, I don’t take that for granted—it’s what motivates me—but athletics don’t make me or break me.
“I am really blessed because I know there are a ton of people out there who aren’t in the same position as me … That’s what keeps me going. But on the same page, I do all this because it’s fun. I keep the mentality that because I enjoy it, I want to put my all in and show off my hard work … We all have to go out there and train really hard, but when you win, it highlights that even more.”
Jorgensen advises young athletes to keep a balance in their lives, too. “You can’t be an athlete your entire life,” she says. “You’ll get older or injuries can happen. It’s really important to find a balance in your life, include other things in your life besides athletics. Keep it all in perspective and remember why you are training. You’re only going to succeed and be the best you can be if you truly enjoy it.”
Look for Jorgensen at the 2012 Olympics this summer. And check back often for more STACK coverage of Olympic sports.
Photo: Delly Carr ITU