Gwen Jorgensen, the world-class triathlete from Waukesha, closed out the 2014 season as a champion and a benefactor.
The 2012 Olympian created a scholarship fund with her husband, cyclist Patrick Lemieux, and distributed 13 grants to young triathletes who needed financial help to pursue their sport. Jorgensen herself benefited from support from USA Triathlon as she made the transition from collegiate runner, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to International Triathlon Union World Champion.
She won an unprecedented five ITU races in 2014, along with her first overall championship.
“I’ve been given so much from USA Triathlon, sponsors and people everywhere in the world,” Jorgensen explained to freelance writer Rick Scherr. “I wanted to give something back to the future of the sport.”
Jorgensen and Lemieux seeded the scholarship fund with $5,000. The fund grew to $23,000 through donations and matching grants from the New York Athletic Club, swim apparel company ROKA and the USA Triathlon Foundation.
According to USA Triathlon, more than 100 athletes applied for grants, forcing Jorgensen to make difficult decisions.
“We asked them what they would use the funds for,” Jorgensen said. “Some people were like, ‘I can’t go to a race because I don’t have money, so I’m going to use it for travel.’ Some people said, ‘I want to use it to go to a junior select camp, so I’m going to use it for that.’ Some people needed equipment, a bike, a watch.”
Jorgensen and Lemieux plan to continue awarding scholarships through the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games and committed another $5,000 toward next year’s fund. Donations to the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship Fund can be made via this link.