RIO DE JANEIRO -- Gwen Jorgensen of the United States surged away from defending Olympic champion Nicola Spirig of Switzerland to win the first Olympic gold medal in triathlon for the United States on Saturday at Copacabana Beach. Vicky Holland of Great Britain sprinted past teammate Non Stanford for the bronze at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
Gwen Jorgensen at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. (Nils Nilsen/USA Triathlon)
Jorgensen's historic gold is the first Olympic medal for the U.S. since Susan Williams won bronze at the Athens 2004 Games. Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.) had been vocal about her goal to win gold in Rio after a flat tire at the London 2012 Games led to a 38th-place finish. Since London, Jorgensen won world titles in both 2014 and 2015 and completed an unprecedented 12-win streak on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit. Jorgensen holds the record for most individual titles on the World Triathlon Series circuit by a woman with 17 career victories.
Jorgensen and Spirig were inseparable for most of the race with each athlete matching her competitor's moves on both the bike and run until Jorgensen broke away on the final lap of the run to finish the 1,500-meter swim, 38.48-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run course in 1 hour, 56 minutes, 16 seconds. Spirig claimed the silver in 1:56:56 and Holland finished in 1:57:01 in the 55-athlete race.
"It's pretty crazy to show up on the day -- after four years -- and be able to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish," Jorgensen said. "It's a huge testament to both my husband, Patrick Lemieux, and my coach, Jamie Turner. They have invested way more in me than anyone will ever know, unless they've seen us work together. This is as much their medal as it is mine."
Jorgensen, a product of the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program, exited the swim with the first pack, which contained some of the sport's strongest cyclists, including Flora Duffy of Bermuda, Spirig, Holland and Stanford. Jorgensen and the pack covered the breakaway attempts on the bike, setting the University of Wisconsin graduate up to showcase her signature run prowess. Spirig was the only athlete to stay with Jorgensen on the run and the two engaged in a tactical battle until Jorgensen surged away from Spirig with about 2k remaining.
"I've been outrun in races," Jorgensen said. "It's an exciting race. Nicola and I were playing a bit of games, and neither of us wanted to lead in the headwind so hopefully it made it exciting for the fans."
Jorgensen, who started competing in triathlon in 2010, and Spirig had only raced each other five times in WTS history prior to today, with Jorgensen having a 3-2 advantage.
American Katie Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.) finished 18th in her first Olympic Games while Sarah True (Hanover, N.H.) suffered a quadriceps injury on the swim and was eventually lapped out of the race on the bike in her second Olympic Games.
"You know everybody is peaking for the Games, and that's what I was peaking for," Zaferes said. "When it all comes together it's a different race than any race I've done. In the WTS races there's always somebody missing, but in the Olympics every one of those awesome athletes is there, and it changes things."
Visit USATriathlon.org for the latest updates from the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team in Rio.
2016 Olympic Games Women's Triathlon
1,500m swim, 38.48k bike, 10k run
1. Gwen Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.), 1:56:16
2. Nicola Spirig (SUI), 1:56:56
3. Vicky Holland (GBR), 1:57:01
4. Non Stanford (GBR), 1:57:04
5. Barbara Riveros (CHI), 1:57:29
6. Emma Moffatt (AUS), 1:57:55
7. Andrea Hewitt (NZL), 1:58:15
8. Flora Duffy (BER), 1:58:25
9. Claudia Rivas (MEX), 1:58:28
10. Rachel Klamer (NED),1:58:55
18. Katie Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.), 2:00:55
DNF Sarah True (Hanover, N.H.)
||About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 races and connects with nearly 500,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).