Interview : Giannis Psarelis (February 2012)
Triathlon World : There are many people that follow the triathlon elite scene but didn’t know anything about you until the moment that you’ ve earned a podium place and your Olympic spot at ITU WS in London. Could you please introduce yourself : when did you first start sports, which was your first triathlon race and what are your main achievements until now (although the best are yet to come)?
Gwen Jorgensen : As a child, I wouldn’t get out of the water. I was a swimmer at heart and loved anything and everything to do with water. I swam at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for two years before giving track and field a try. I did one year of swimming and track and field at University. I had success in running and decided I had reached my potential in swimming.
For the next two years I ran cross country and track and field. I graduated from University with a Masters in Accountancy in 2010. This is when USAT (USA Triathlon) contacted me. USAT has a talent ID program and Barb Lindquist is the College Recruitment Program director who contacted me. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea at first as I had a full time job with Ernst & Young at the time. USAT gave me an offer I couldnt’ refuse, so I started my job as a tax accountant while training for triahlon.
I did my first race in March of 2010 and earned my Pro card. I didn’t feel nearly ready to enter the elite field, but a few months later I was at the FISU World Championships and placed 2nd. It was then that I realized I had a huge passion for triathlon. I decided to work part time and train full time for triathlon. Later that year I qualified for the 2012 Olympics. I took a leave from Ernst & Young to soley focus on triathlon. Last year I competed in the London Olympics and placed 2nd at the World Championship Triathlon in Auckland.
I now train with Jamie Turner in Australia in the winters and Spain in the summer. I am looking forward to the upcoming years and continual growth in knowledge. Jamie and his triathlon squad have an incredible amount of knowledge that I am trying to soak up, which may take a few years to learn it all….good thing my next major goal isn’t until 2016!
Triathlon World : What is typical day for you? We have read in one of your interviews that you are not a full time athlete but you work for a company, is it true?
Gwen Jorgansen : I stopped working at Ernst & Young and now am living as a full time athlete. It’s a great life, and something I do not want to change, however it is also difficult at times. This is my first time away from home (Minnesota, USA) for a prolonged period of time. I’m lucky in that I have my partner, Patrick Lemieux here with me to keep me company. We are also staying at a wonderful house that allows (Wollongong, NSW, Australia) to feel like a second home. Jamie Turner and the bunch also make the move a lot easier. They are entertaining, energetic, motivating, and fun to be around.
A typical day includes waking up, going for a light jog, coming home to a breakfast that (hopefully) Pat has cooked, eating and recovering a bit before heading to the pool. I will then come home, have lunch and have a nap.
Then in the afternoon I will either go for another swim, another run, or a bike ride. When complete I come home, make sure to get in some good proteins and carbohydrates and catch up on emails. I also get massage work done a few times a week and am in the gym a few times a week as well.
My life is awesome and I love every second of it, however as an athlete, your job never ends. Everything you do – from grocery shopping, to napping, to eating affects your performance.
Triathlon World : Could you please describe to us how is a typical training week for you at winter when you build your base?
Gwen Jorgensen : This winter has been different than any other! I started off the year with a month in altitude with Jamie Turner and his training crew. It was my first time at altitude, so we were a little cautious. I did a decent amount of volume, but not a lot of intensity. I was focusing on my swim, so I was swimming up to 8 times per week, while also trying to build a good base for the rest of the season.
Triathlon World : We consider you as the main favorite for the 2016 Olympic Games due mainly to your talent in running. What is your best time in 5 or 10km in track and on the road? What is the secret of your running? What are your key training sessions?
Gwen Jorgensen : Wow, I am honored and a bit humbled to hear that. My best 5k on the track was 15:52. I only did the 10k on the track once, and to be honest I don’t remember the time.
As for the secret to running: there is no secret. It’s a lot of hard work phsyically and mentally. I’m blessed in that I have a God-given talent in running as well, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Everyone has something they need to work on in the run (arm position, stride length, stride rate, body position, etc.)
I find that when I fatiuge it is best to focus on a drill or something you know you need to work on. It helps distract your brain from hurting and also helps keep your form in check under fatigue.
Triathlon World : What are your sponsors and how important is their support in you?
Gwen Jorgensen : I feel very fortunate to have the support I do not only from sponsors, but my family, friends, training partners, and fellow triathletes. Triathlon is my job. I no longer have any other sort of income, so having the support of sponsors, both through product and financially is huge.
USAT is one of my largest supporters. They provide help with everything – anytime I have a question or a need triathlon related, they are always my first go-to and are eager to help. I can’t thank them enough!
Hincapie sports apparel is another major supporter. I love their clothing and am always comfortable training and racing because of Hincapie.
This will be my second year riding Specialized and I couldn’t be happier. Not only do they provide me with a bike that I know is superior on race day, they also provide awesome helmets, shoes, and saddles.
I ride HED wheels. They provide a great wheel for any course condition. Having someone like Steve Hed, provides great insight as to which wheel will suit each course the best.
David Hobbs Honda is a hometown sponsor. Like any athlete, I end up driving to the pool and grocery store often, so having David Hobbs Honda provide a Honda Civic makes getting around town much easier.
I race and train in the pool and ocean with Blueseventy products. I love the Helix wetsuit. I use it weekly in training. It provides great buoyancy and shoulder mobility. I also use Blueseventy goggles and swimsuits. Their swim suits are adorable and love their goggles.
Asics racing and training shoes keep my feet happy. I train in the Gel-DS Trainer. It is light, with great support. It is also colorful-I just absolutely love it!
Oakley is another loved sponsor. Before Oakley I hated sunglasses and never wore them. Now, I can’t do a ride, run, or even a walk to the shops without them! They are super comfortable and never fog up. They also magically never let sweat get in my eyes….and I sweat a lot.
The New York Athletic Club have been a great supporter of me and the sport of Triathlon. The NYAC in New York is an amazing facility, and I love training there.
Triathlon World : What is the support you get from your national governing body (USA Triathlon)?
Gwen Jorgensen : I brushed on this lightly in the previous question, but if it wasn’t for USAT I wouldn’t be in this sport. They introduced me and help me learn by encouraging me and making sure I have everything I need to perform long term – this includes things that are physical, mental, and financial. USAT does a great job and we are really trying to build the sport from the bottom up; they are doing a great job investing more in our younger generation which really excites me about the future of USAT.
Triathlon World : What is your goals for 2013 and for your triathlon career as well?
Gwen Jorgensen : The main focus is 2016. I am focusing on my front end of the triathlon right now (swim/bike). I know this may be a long process so I am trying to remain patient. I will be competing in the WTS series this year, and doing well in the overall, as well as the Grand Finale are goals for me. My ultimate goal is to win Gold in Rio. A lot of hard work, suffering, and investments will need to be made. I know the investments I’m making now will help me in the future. I’m excited about my journey to Rio with Jamie Turner and his crew. It wouldn’t be possible without them.