The Jorgensen juggernaut

Gwen Jorgensen won the gold medal that seemed inevitable. recaps the amazing women's race at the Olympic games in Rio.

| August 20, 2016 | NEWS

Gwen Jorgensen | Gwen Jorgensen is the new Olympic Champion in triathlon

Gwen Jorgensen is the new Olympic Champion in triathlon

Photo >Frank Wechsel / spomedis

Was there ever any doubt? All year we’ve been talking about the move that might wrest the gold medal from American Gwen Jorgensen’s hands – a breakaway on the bike that opened up enough time that it gave the athletes in it enough of a cushion to hold off the best female runner in the sport.

There were two problems with that plan: no one was able to keep it a secret from Jorgensen and her coach Jamie Turner and, most importantly, everyone keeps forgetting just how good an athlete Jorgensen is.

So, try as they might, that break from Jorgensen never happened. Carolina Routier did her bit, leading the swim with Katie Zaferes and Emma Moffat doing their best to try and help keep the pace moving, but Jorgensen was only seconds behind at the end of the 1.5 km jaunt off Copacabana beach.

On the bike a lead group of 18 quickly formed, driven at the front for the most part by 2012 Olympic gold medalist Nicola Spirig (SUI) and Flora Duffy (BER). No matter that they did, though, neither could shake Jorgensen, who ride brilliantly – even going to the front a few times seemingly to prove to her competition that the whole “drop her on the bike” thing wasn’t going to work.

Which left things to the run. Over the last few weeks we’ve been seeing lots of updates from the Spirig camp that her training has been building perfectly for the games. A few weeks out she blasted through a 9:06 3km track race at the end of a training day that included swim and bike workouts. Since winning the gold in 2012 Spirig has become a mom, represented Switzerland in the marathon and won numerous long distance races, proving that she’s much more than just a talented Olympic-distance racer. Her coach, Brett Sutton, has prepared more world champs than pretty much anyone on the planet, so you knew that Spirig would at least arrive in Rio well prepared.

Which she was. There were no surprises through the early stages of the run – right off the bat Jorgensen went to the front, with Spirig right on her tail. A chase group of four including Emma Moffat (AUS), the bronze medalist from Beijing in 2008, Barbara Riveros (CHI) and Brits Non Stanford and Vicky Holland was whittled down to a battle between the two British roommates.

Which was hard to pay attention to because Jorgensen and Spirig were putting on a show reminiscent of the famed IronWar. Heading through 5 km Spirig surprised pretty much everyone by taking the lead, but before the end of the third of four loops she and Jorgensen started to slow down and jockey for position. The literally weaved across the road and started talking to each other before finally starting to move forward again to start the bell lap.

Then, about 500m into that final 2.5 km loop, Spirig had managed to “poke the bear” enough to send Jorgensen off in a flurry. Within a few hundred meters the gap was up to five seconds. By the end of the race, as an emotional Jorgensen crossed the line for the gold medal that seemed inevitable, (easy for us to say, right?) the gap was 40 seconds. Spirig got to the line five seconds ahead of Vicky Holland, who won the battle between the Brits as Non Stanford took fifth, with Riveros in fifth.