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Gwen Jorgensen: My Reason For Returning To Triathlon

by Gwen Jorgensen

Gwen Jorgensen runs during a training session as she preps to return to triathlon.  


As an athlete, we are constantly compared to other athletes. How did our stats stack up? What did our times reveal? Who is the better athlete?


Unfortunately, as moms, the same is true.


After winning the gold medal in triathlon at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, I switched to long-distance running and tried my hand at the marathon while also starting a family. 


When reconsidering a return to triathlon, my biggest hesitation was the guilt I would feel as a mom. What would this mean for my kids? How would it affect them when I leave for a race? How would I spend enough time with them?


In sports, we have a team to help us. When we boast about our accomplishments as an athlete, we credit those people and brag about them from the rooftops.


But as a mother, far too often we pretend like there’s no wizard behind the curtain. No daycare watching our children so we can work to pay for that luxury, or babysitters swooping in to save us when our child gets sick and we’re stuck at work. Most of us have a team — some big, some small — even if it’s an online group of fellow moms to help when we don’t have all the answers.


With my first son, Stanley, now 5 years old, I thought I had to be all those people. I didn’t know it was okay to ask for help. And certainly, no one was talking about it. But, with age comes wisdom. So, the second time around I gave myself permission to ask for help.


With the birth of our second son, George, now three months old, our family also welcomed an au pair, LouLou, into our family. She is from France and teaches Stanley words in French, and laughs when he shows her something funny. She is a part of our family now and is a huge blessing, allowing my husband Patrick — a sports agent — and me to be better parents. With her help, we show our children that it’s okay to follow your own passion.


LouLou makes it possible to go as a family to New Zealand in February and compete in two races — my first time back on the blue carpet since 2016.


Am I nervous? Yes. Do I think I am at peak fitness? No. But, I am excited to show my five-year-old — who doesn’t want to do things unless he can be perfect — that we’re not always perfect. Success is more than perfection. It’s striving, giving our best on that day, and showing up to try.

Gwen Jorgensen runs in the women's triathlon during the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug. 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.


Before having kids, I didn’t believe you could be a mom and an athlete. However, other women inspired me and let me know I could do both. I know the road ahead isn’t going to be easy, but my goal is to stay as consistent as possible.


Achieving 10 out of 10 every day — as an athlete, and a mom — is impossible. There are factors that will come into play. For instance, my child might have a bad night’s sleep. Or, I could get sick. So, the key is consistency and staying healthy, which ultimately leads to a strong return.


The decision to return was not a decision I took lightly. But after watching Team USA take silver in the first Olympic mixed-gender triathlon relay at the Tokyo Olympics, I was inspired and excited to try to contribute to the team in 2024.


I know I’m not the same athlete I was 10 years ago. I’m not the same athlete I was yesterday. I’m Gwen 2.0.


The old Gwen would have done things like run through pain and refuse to listen to her body. Now, when I feel something off, I would rather stop training for a few days than take a month off when it gets worse. When I was younger, it was hard to listen to my body. I now embrace training smarter, not harder.


I know you can’t be 85 and go to the Olympics and I’ll have to stop competing eventually. But, I am not ready to stop yet. The marathon kept breaking my heart. I would invest my time, energy, and heart in a race, and then run slower than the previous race. My unexplained inconsistency became a mental burden. 


My biggest reason for a comeback to triathlon was the goal of being on the mixed team relay. I loved the team aspect when I did swim relays as a kid. It was the same thing in college when I ran cross-country. I thrive in that atmosphere and find I have a lot more fun when I know it’s about something bigger than myself.


Being on a team brings out the best in everyone, and I believe that Team USA is strong and can achieve gold in 2024. I believe I can do it, but we won’t know until I am out there on the race course.


In the end, a medal is nice. It’s a symbol of the work and a thank you to all the people who helped get you there. But, a medal can’t come close to my child’s smile when they’re having a good day.


I’m already on the best four-person team around.

Gwen Jorgensen is an athlete for Team USA in the sport of triathlon.