Aug. 6, 2011
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LONDON -- Less than two years after completing her first-ever triathlon, former University of Wisconsin standout Gwen Jorgensen placed second to post the best finish by an American woman in the history of the International Triathlon Union World Championship Series and claim a spot on the 2012 United States Olympic Triathlon Team Saturday at Hyde Park.
American Sarah Groff also earned an Olympic berth with a seventh-place finish.
In just her third career WCS start, Jorgensen (Milwaukee, Wis.) continued her meteoric rise in triathlon by posting the day’s fastest run split en route to a time of 2 hours, 41 seconds on the Olympic-distance course. She was just seven seconds off the pace of winner Helen Jenkins of Great Britain. Groff (Hanover, N.H.) locked up her first Games appearance in 2:00:58.
According to USA Triathlon’s 2012 Olympic qualification criteria, the two highest-placing eligible American athletes could automatically qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team by placing among the top nine finishers today in London. The race was held on the same course proposed for use at next year’s Games.
The 25-year-old Jorgensen, a former standout runner and swimmer at the University of Wisconsin, is a second-year triathlete who earned her elite license in her first-ever triathlon in March 2010. She displayed her potential at the sport’s highest level at last month’s WCS stop in Hamburg where she clocked the day’s fifth-fastest run split but had to settle for a 27th-place finish.
“You just go out there every day and you learn from each race,” said Jorgensen, who was introduced to the sport by 2004 U.S. Olympian Barb Lindquist, who heads USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program. “The USA athletes and coaches have been helping me and teaching me the ropes. I’m just taking what I learn.”
In addition to earning an individual berth to the Games, Jorgensen also locked up a country slot for the U.S. thanks to her top-three finish in London. The U.S. is the only nation to have the maximum number of athletes — three men, three women — on the starting line in all three Olympic triathlons.
“I think the USA has an awesome qualification process,” said Jorgensen. “Sarah Groff and I can now spend the next year training, planning and getting it right so we can peak at the Olympics.”
After Groff, Laura Bennett (Boulder, Colo.) and Sarah Haskins (Colorado Springs, Colo.) led the race throughout much of the swim, things played out perfectly for Jorgensen. She spent the majority of the bike in a chase pack that steadily chipped away at a more than one-minute advantage held by a lead group of 34 women that included Groff, Bennett and Haskins.
After whittling the lead down to just 25 seconds after six laps of the bike, the chase pack merged with the leaders on the seventh and final lap to send nearly 60 athletes into T2 together.
Jorgensen exited transition in the back third of that group, but moved her way up to sixth place midway through the run. Jorgensen and Groff were running third and fourth, respectively, with 2.5k to go, and Jorgensen surged to grab second with a 33:43 closing 10k run. Groff crossed the line in seventh 17 seconds later join Jorgensen on the U.S. roster for 2012.
Release courtesy USA Triathlon