But a bike? The only way her parents could get her to ride with them was to bribe her with ice cream at the end of a ride.
So her reaction when first approached about competing for the USA Triathlon team?
“I said, ‘No thanks, I am not interested, I hate biking,’” Jorgensen, 26, told hundreds of Carroll University students Wednesday afternoon at the college's opening convocation.
But Jorgensen got on that bike, she trained hard and sacrificed her time with friends to compete in the London 2012 Olympics. She started the swim out strong and was in medal contention as she jumped on the bike. Jorgensen was feeling good about how she was competing, when it all came to a halt with a flat tire.
“I swear, I was trying to will that tire to have some air in it,” Jorgensen said. “It just didn’t work.”
After a stop to change her flat tire, Jorgensen had fallen drastically behind. She could have given up, she said, but instead kept competing until the end. While she didn’t catch up enough to receive a medal, she took 38th overall. When she started her run, Jorgensen was in 50th place.
“After London, I had one thought: ‘Gold in Rio,’” Jorgensen said, referring to the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
She has four years to give it her best shot, just like Carroll students have four years to give it their best shot with school, work and life.
“To have success you have to be able to shift your focus and recognize new opportunities,” Jorgensen said. “I qualified and focused all my energy into triathlon. I took a leave of absence from work and moved to Florida. This was a huge sacrifice for me. I did not want to quite my job — there was something about it, I had this connection.
“I was Gwen, the accountant. I wouldn’t even add people on Facebook that were triathletes. I thought, 'No, I am not a triathlete. I am an accountant.'”
Eric Lehmann, Jorgensen’s track and field coach at Waukesha South, encouraged the hundreds of new students at Carroll to use their energy “to achieve great things.” Carroll’s theme this school year is energy.
“Gwen has always had a incredible amount of energy to achieve her goals,” Lehmann said. “Academics, swimming or running, Gwen has always focused her energy to the task at hand and dedicated herself to be successful.”
Home After the Olympics
Patch had the chance to catch up with Jorgensen briefly following the Carroll University convocation.
Patch: What do you think about being selected for the Wall of Fame at Waukesha South?
Jorgensen: “It is an incredible honor. My sister has been submitting my name every year, and I am like, ‘Elizabeth, I am not going to get it. Just stop, give up.’ It was kind of actually a shock when I realized it. It is a huge blessing, and I feel really fortunate. I love the Blackshirts and it is good to be a part of such a small community.”
Patch: And how is it coming back to Waukesha after the Olympics in London?
Jorgensen: “This is my first time home since the Olympics. It nice to just be back with family. Nothing has really changed. That is something I realized at the Olympics. All of the other athletes are just human; we are all just ‘normal’ people. It is nice to come back home and see family and friends.”
Patch: How was it being the keynote speaker at Carroll University’s convocation?
Jorgensen: “I was very nervous. I was probably more nervous than starting my Olympic race. It is good to get me out of my comfort zone and to do things like this. It is a small way for me to help give back to the community too, which is really nice.”