The 2016 Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen has announced a surprise return to triathlon – with the Mixed Team Relay at the Paris Olympics in 2024 her primary target.
The American was a legend of the sport, becoming what was then the ITU World Triathlon Champion in both 2014 and 2015 in addition to her Olympic title, the USA’s first ever triathlon gold medal.
She announced her retirement late in 2017, with her focus then switching to running and trying to win an Olympic Marathon title in Tokyo but injuries hampered that and she recently gave birth to her second child, George, who is a younger brother to five-year-old Stanley.
Inspired – and inspiring
She revealed her shock comeback to swim / bike / run on her social media channels, posting on Instagram: “I am thrilled to announce my return to the blue carpet. I’m collaborating with my team to return to form and look forward to the work ahead as I invest in myself and USA Triathlon.
“I am inspired by the mixed-team relay’s silver medal in Tokyo and aspire to contribute to that team in 2024. I believe team USA can be one step higher in Paris!
This return is about more than just me.
“As a mom of two and long-time supporter of USA Triathlon, I strive to set an example that motivates and inspires my family, moms everywhere, and team USA.”
And World Triathlon responded immediately to the news, saying: “We are thrilled to welcome you back on the blue carpet Gwen Jorgensen.”
Going into more detail on a YouTube video, embedded below, she added: “I’m coming back to World Triathlon – what was then ITU – but what I’m really excited about is the Mixed Team Relay, which wasn’t an event at the 2016 Olympics.
“That is what is really motivating me to come back to triathlon. The Olympics are coming up really quick and the timeline is super short.
“There is a qualifying event in August 2023 and for me to even get on that startline is going to be super difficult so I’m probably going to be forced to race earlier than I’d like to but… I just gotta dive in and get started.”
The USA can qualify three women for the Olympics, with the likes of Taylor Knibb and Taylor Spivey two of the leading current contenders – and Jorgensen will have to race the individual to be in contention for the Mixed Team Relay (which features two women and two men).
‘Having kids doesn’t mean your career is over’
She speaks candidly about the practicalities of looking after her two children while fitting in her training and explained that an au pair will help with that process.
“I always thought I couldn’t be a mum and an athlete and it was other women who actually inspired me and let me know that I actually can do both.
“Nicola Spirig was probably the biggest motivator for me. She got silver at the 2016 Olympics having had a child. And then she had two more kids and came back and went to the Tokyo Olympics.
“She was a big motivator showing me that having kids doesn’t mean your career is over.”
There have been other inspiring examples too, highlighted by Chelsea Sodaro winning the IRONMAN World Championship at Kona this year, 18 months after giving birth to her first child.