Gwen Jorgensen wanted to be an Olympic swimmer. Then she wanted to be a tax accountant. But somewhere along the line, she was told she should give triathlon a try -- so she became the greatest triathlete in the world.
Jorgensen is a reigning two-time world champion and didn't lose a single race for the entire 2015 season. Even when she's about to lose, she doesn't: In June, she found herself trailing Bermuda's Flora Duffy by 100 seconds entering the conclusive running portion of a triathlon in Leeds -- and she still won by 51 seconds.
She's won pretty much everywhere, including Rio. Last August, Jorgensen won a test event by 19 seconds on the Olympic triathlon course, which sees athletes swim the waters of Copacabana beach and bike the coast's hills. Jorgensen calls the bike ride "really hard," but that may just tire everybody out for the indefatigable Jorgensen to beat them on the final run. She's the odds-on favorite to win the women's triathlon event, held Aug. 20.
Back in Waukesha, Wisc., Jorgensen was MVP of her high school swim team and all-state in track. She went to Wisconsin, where she made the Big Ten championships but fell short of competing in national events. So she switched to track, where she won the Big Ten 5,000-meter championship as a senior. Jorgensen didn't think she wasn't elite in any one event so she got a Master's degree in accounting and took a job as a CPA for Ernst & Young.
It took a recruiter for USA Triathlon to realize Jorgensen's potential. She had been good at running and good at swimming. That's two-thirds of triathlon. So somebody gave Jorgensen a call and urged her to try it. She found herself working two jobs:
I would wake up around 4am, ride my bike in the dark with lots of lights to swimming practice (at the time I didn't own a car), swim for an hour and a half, hop on the treadmill for thirty to forty minutes, ride home and be at work before 8am. I would then put in a full day at work and then come home and ride the trainer.
And then she found herself being really, really good at triathlon. Two years later, Jorgensen was racing in the 2012 Olympics in London. She got a flat tire during the bike portion of the event, causing her to finish 38th. But around 2014, she hit her stride. She's only lost one race since April of that year.
Jorgensen has taken on the world's best in one of the world's toughest sports and thrived. And yet somehow, she thinks parts of accounting may have been harder:
In triathlon, we train to exceed the demands of competition. In theory, racing should be easier than training (this isn't usually the case, however). Tax season is different. No one can truly prepare you for your first tax season. It's a lot of long hours, but really rewarding when you finish a long project that you are proud of.
No offense to any CPAs, but we think triathlon is slightly more entertaining to watch than the tax rush.