Gwen Jorgensen, who won the gold medal in women’s triathlon at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, announced today that she is leaving the sport to pursue a gold medal in women’s marathon at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Jorgensen, who gave birth to her first child, Stanley, in August, had previously announced that she was taking off the entire 2017 triathlon season with the aim of defending her Olympic title in Tokyo, but her focus has now shifted to the marathon.
“I want it all again, except entirely new,” the 31-year-old Jorgensen said in making the announcement on her Instagram account. “I am ready to make a comeback, to a stage I’ve never been. Hello marathon. It’s nice to meet you.”
Jorgensen’s triathlon gold medal in Rio was the first by an American at the Olympics. She also competed in the 2012 Games but finished 38th after getting a flat tire in the bike portion. Triathlon has been part of the Olympic program since 2000.
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Jorgensen, the world champion in triathlon in 2014 and 2015, actually made her marathon debut last November at the New York City Marathon, where she finished 14th among women in a time of 2:41:01, about 16 minutes slower than the winner.
“The major reason I’m trying to do marathon is because I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in triathlon,” she said, according to NBC Sports.
Jorgensen, a native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, said her time away from triathlon gave her time to reflect, and ultimately she decided she wanted to pursue running. She was a standout runner and swimmer at the University of Wisconsin before taking up triathlon.
“It’s a huge risk to switch sports right now, when I’m arguably at the top and could make more money than I’ve ever made in triathlon. However, I am motivated by a new challenge. Triathlon picked me, and now I’m picking marathon.”
Jorgensen is a 17-time winner of ITU World Triathlon Series races, and went unbeaten in the 2015 season.
“Gwen has left an indelible mark on triathlon in this country and lifted the sport’s profile to unprecedented heights through her remarkable career over the past eight years,” USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris said in a statement.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.