A Q&A With American Olympic Triathlete Gwen Jorgensen

Gwen Jorgensen is a two-time world champion triathlete and the only U.S. woman to win back-to-back elite world titles in her sport. She holds the women's record for career International Triathlon Union's (ITU) World Triathlon Series (WTS) wins with 15, and she has won every race she has started since May 2014, for a whopping total of for 12 consecutive wins on the WTS circuit. In 2015, Gwen became the first triathlete --man or woman--to complete an undefeated season.

ACTIVE.com caught up with Jorgensen as she was gearing up for the 2016 season and a second go at an Olympic medal.

ACTIVE.com: How did you first get into triathlon? What drew you to the sport?

GJ: After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, I went to work as a tax accountant for Ernst & Young in Milwaukee. USA Triathlon has a College Recruitment Program in which former collegiate swimmers and runners are recruited into the sport. Barb Lindquist from the CRP contacted me about competing in triathlon. Admittedly, I didn't know a lot about triathlon at the time but USA Triathlon helped align me with the necessary equipment and a coach.

I love competing and the sport has become a huge passion of mine. It has changed my mindset knowing how hard you can push and test yourself. The sport teaches me that mediocrity is not going to make it and forces me to get outside my comfort zone on a daily basis. I love the challenge.

ACTIVE.com: What is your strongest/weakest discipline? Swim, bike or run?

GJ: I ran and swam in college so when I began competing in triathlon, the steepest learning curve for me was definitely the bike. In the offseason, I'll spend a lot of time on different bikes such as mountain and cyclocross bikes to keep it interesting and teach me about the bike. I've learned from my husband and former pro cyclist, Patrick Lemieux, who teaches me to this day. I also learn from my coach Jamie Turner and my training partners, the Wollongong Wizards.

Although cycling was the last sport I learned, I struggle the most with swimming. I used to want to be an Olympic swimmer but I had to give up on that dream a long, long time ago. I still spend the most time swimming and spend hours in the off-season working on swim drills to develop my swim technique. During the season, it's more about keeping the technique while building strength both in the pool and through dry land sessions. Jamie Turner has really helped me progress my swimming, but it's a daily struggle for me and something I always have to train for with intent.

ACTIVE.com: With such a dominant season in the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series, are you feeling more pressure to win at the Olympics?

GJ: Since the 2012 London Olympics, I have been focused on competing in Rio and have aspired for gold. I don't think much about last season, instead I focus on the future. I have a huge goal in Rio and that keeps me very motivated. I know there are numerous women with the tools to win on race day. I believe I have the tools, too, but it's the person who is able to use those tools the best and at the right time that will be able to come across the finish line first.

Instead of focusing on where I finish, I like to stay focused on the process. I set process-based goals because I can control my processes and techniques. I cannot control the outcome of the race.

ACTIVE.com: What is your training schedule like leading up to Rio? Are you feeling healthy?

GJ: Staying healthy is the number one goal this year. Thankfully I have my husband, Patrick, who looks after me and makes my life easier so I can recover. I competed in an early season Continental Cup in Wollongong. It was a good hit out, but I won't compete against the world's best until my first WTS of the year on April 9 in Gold Coast. My main goal for the year is the Rio Olympics so my training has been focused on building a strong base for a solid performance on August 20.

ACTIVE.com: What are you looking forward to the most in Rio?

GJ: I am so excited to have the opportunity to represent Team USA in Rio and have my family cheer me on. When I competed at the Olympic Test Event last August, I was impressed with the quality and cleanliness of the roads. The hilly bike course will be tough but I look forward to the challenge.

ACTIVE.com: Is the water quality a concern for you? Did you consider not competing?

GJ: Water quality is not a new issue for triathletes. Many major cities around the world have some concerns around water quality. The ITU and USOC conducted water quality tests on Copacabana Beach, as they do at every race, and these organizations make athlete health a priority. If the tests do not meet a certain standard, we will not be able to compete. I trust these organizations and I am not spending time or energy wondering what if.

ACTIVE.com: There has recently been a push for more equal opportunities for women in triathlon, have you seen any progress yourself?

GJ: It's inspiring to witness the growing number of resources for female triathletes. I am fortunate to have an amazing, supportive group of corporate sponsors behind me, which helped give me the freedom to select a coach and training environment that works best for me.

Major endemic brands like ASICS, Specialized, ROKA and Oakley support a range of female athletes and USA Triathlon and ITU are focused on recruiting women. I am now sponsored by my former employer, Ernst & Young, who created the Women Athletes Business Network, and I launched the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship two years ago as a way to help support up-and-coming triathletes.

ACTIVE.com: What are your favorite pre- and post-race meals?

GJ: I love oats and eggs for breakfast, which I generally eat six days a week and pre-race. It includes two cups oats (I like to soak with raisins the night before for easier digestion), a handful of walnuts, four cups water or milk, one tsp salt, a handful of raisins, two bananas, two Tbsp coconut oil and four eggs (boil in water with a dash of vinegar). Alternatively, I'll add yogurt, berries, dried fruit or peanut butter.

Post-race, I love sushi or curry (lamb, beef or chicken), which is also a favorite lunch meal for me. I also love chocolate and ice cream for dessert.

ACTIVE.com: How do you fuel mid-race?

GJ: I don't eat during a race, but I always have my Specialized bottle filled with half Red Bull, half water which I consume on the bike. It's hydrating and gives me some sugar, energy, caffeine and B vitamins--which my body can use to fuel me throughout the rest of the race.

ACTIVE.com: Do you have any fun post-race plans?

GJ: My husband and I really enjoy visiting new restaurants around the world and sampling local cuisine. Post race, I always enjoy sitting down to eat a meal with friends and family at a local restaurant. Apparently meals are very social events in Brazil and I look forward to enjoying some feijoada (a Portuguese dish).

ACTIVE.com: What does the rest of your season look like?

GJ: My first major race of the season is coming up in early April, the ITU World Triathlon Series (WTS) Gold Coast. My coach and I are still deciding on my pre-Rio race schedule but it will likely include WTS Yokohama in May, WTS Leeds in June and potentially Hamburg in July.

To learn more about Gwen, visit usatriathlon.org and teamusa.org.

  The Olympics begin on August 5th.

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About the Author

Michael Nystrom

Michael Nystrom is the triathlon editor for Active.com. A California native, Michael graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in journalism. He has done several sprint- and olympic-distance triathlons, raced Ironman 70.3 California and raced Ironman 140.6 Arizona. Follow Michael on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Michael Nystrom is the triathlon editor for Active.com. A California native, Michael graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in journalism. He has done several sprint- and olympic-distance triathlons, raced Ironman 70.3 California and raced Ironman 140.6 Arizona. Follow Michael on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

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