Gwen Jorgensen traveled to London for the first time this week and will race on Saturday to book a return trip for the 2012 Olympics.
In just her second year as a professional triathlete, the part-time tax accountant from Milwaukee is one five women from the U.S. invited to compete in the International Triathlon Union World Championship Series race. The top two U.S. women will qualify for the Olympic squad, provided they are in the top nine overall.
(Check Friday's Journal Sentinel for a feature story on Jorgensen by Gary D'Amato, the paper's veteran Olympics reporter).
The trip abroad offers Jorgensen, 25, a preview of the course for the Olympic triathlon and a chance to test her improving skills in open water swimming and biking.
"I'm looking at it as just another race," Jorgensen said before leaving for London. "We've all put our work in, and we will go out there and do our best."
Gwen Jorgensen - photo courtesy of Paul Phillips/Competitive Image
Jorgensen earned All-American honors in track at the University of Wisconsin, and her background as a high school and collegiate swimmer earned her a slot in the USA Triathlon elite athlete development program. She competed in her first triathlon in March 2010 and has collected nine top-five finishes in her 14 career International Triathlon Union events.
Being mentioned as a contender for an Olympic spot is a sign of her progress.
"I'm learning from everyone and the support has been a huge benefit," she said.
Former pro Tom Schuler has been coaching her in cycling. Dave Anderson, at the Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center, has worked with her on swimming and Cindi Bannink, a coach in Madison, has helped her tie it all together.
The goal is to turn her natural talent into success in the three elements.
Jorgensen continues to work part-time for Ernst & Young while training and the coaches at the Schroeder Aquatic Center have organized an "Adopt and Athlete" program to help cover her expenses. Check out the details here to help a local athlete.