Rio 2016 Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen last stood on a podium of a World Triathlon individual race seven years ago. She proved she’s back in business by doing so again at the World Triathlon Cup in Valencia. It was hard for the American to hold back the tears when she grabbed the finish tape, almost 30 seconds ahead of the two Germans accompanying her on the podium, Nina Eim and Marlene Gomez-Goggle.
Valencia welcomed the participants of the World Cup with an impressive storm just a few hours before the start of the races. Still, the sun started to shine again in the Mediterranean city while the 32 women lined up on Saturday afternoon, ready for a challenging race along the Marina that used to host Formula 1 races.
Belgium’s Jolien Vermeylen took the lead in the unusual format of 2 laps of 750m each but without leaving the water for the second lap. She quickly stretched out the group buoy after buoy, with Switzerland’s Anja Weber right at her feet, and both of them led the large line of athletes on the long run and ramp to the first transition.
Some of the favorites of the race, like Gwen Jorgensen, managed to stay close to the leaders, exiting the water only seven seconds behind, but others, like Lisa Terstch (GER) or Claire Michel (BEL) struggled in the first section of the race, almost 30 seconds behind the leaders, which proved to be too much for them.
Valerie Barthelemy (BEL), Yuko Takahashi (JPN), Nina Eim (GER), Noelia Juan (ESP) took the lead on the bike with great runners like Tilda Mansson (SWE), Jorgensen and Vermeylen safely situated in the middle of the pack, trying to save some legs for the run.
Valencia promised to be a run race, and so it was. The group of 22 leaders racked their bikes together, and it was again Anja Weber leaving the transition in the lead for the second time of the day, but she was quickly chased by Vermeylen, Eim, Maria Carolina Velasquez Soto (COL), and Valerie Barthelemy. Halfway through the 20km flat run course, the lead group had stretched out, with Jorgensen making her final move with two laps to go, no one able to follow her.
Entering the blue carpet and with the finish tape on sight, Jorgensen’s face was a mix of tears and smiles, knowing that it had been seven years since her last victory at the Rio 2016 Olympics. It was just a few months ago when Jorgensen, now a mother of two and seven years after announcing her retirement from triathlon, decided that she wanted to give herself another chance in the sport and try to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics. It won’t be an easy task, but she seems to be on a mission.
“I came out here and I really wanted to focus on the process and performance, more so than the place. Getting back in the sport after seven years is not easy, I forgot the difference between open water and pool swimming and I am excited. I know my fitness is there in the swim and now I know how to execute it,” she explained after her victory.
“Only one (US) person qualified in the Paris Test Event and there’s another qualifying event in Pontevedra but I am not on the start list. But I am here and I just know that every race I get into, I am going to show up and give my best,” she said.
Top-5 Elite Women
- Gwen Jorgensen USA 01:55:01
- Nina Eim GER 01:55:17
- Marlene Gomez-Göggel GER 01:55:24
- Noelia Juan ESP 01:55:38
- Jolien Vermeylen BEL 01:56:06