Gwen Jorgensen
Gwen Jorgensen clinched her U.S. Olympic Team spot on Sunday in Rio. (Wagner Araujo/ITU)

Jorgensen, True Qualify for Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games 

Jorgensen’s win solidifies a team quota spot for the U.S.

 

RIO DE JANEIRO — 2012 Olympians Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True punched their tickets for the 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday at the 2015 ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, held at Copacabana Beach.

Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.) clocked in at 1 hour, 58 minutes, 46 seconds on the standard 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course, which is expected to be the same next year when the women’s triathlon event is contested on Aug. 20 during the Olympic Games. Great Britain’s Non Stanford finished second in 1:59:05, while her compatriot Vicky Holland finished third in 1:59:27. True (Hanover, N.H.) finished fourth in 1:59:46.

As the top-two Americans within the top eight on Sunday, Jorgensen and True met the qualification standards outlined by USA Triathlon earlier this year. According to USA Triathlon’s 2016 Olympic qualification criteria, the two highest-placing eligible American athletes could automatically qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team by placing among the top eight finishers today. Katie Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.) finished sixth and was the third American finisher of the day.

The race began with a one-lap ocean swim, and Jorgensen, True, Zaferes and more than 20 other women came out of the water close enough to form the lead pack. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) and Erin Jones (Hood River, Ore.) also were in the lead pack. Throughout the eight laps on the bike, the lead group worked together to put a gap on the chase pack, with an advantage of more than 90 seconds by the second transition. With the race coming down to the run, Jorgensen moved to the front of the field, with Holland and Stanford on her shoulders. True was trailing a bit after the first lap, but pulled back up to the lead group, and the four women ran together through lap three.

Then Jorgensen made a break, putting distance between herself and Stanford. Gwen posted a 33:57 run split – the fastest of the day – to take the tape and the win. Her victory also confirmed a National Federation spot for the U.S. Additional spots will be confirmed through the ITU Olympic Points List, and the U.S. women are currently in prime position to ensure three women will be on the team next summer.

“It’s amazing to have qualified for the Olympics,” said Jorgensen, who currently has 11 consecutive ITU World Triathlon Series wins and 14 WTS career titles. “This has been the first step in my goal of aspiring to win gold in Rio next year since the 2012 Olympics. I’m really excited and we now have two U.S. girls qualified, so I think that’s key. Sarah and I both have a year now to prepare for the race. This whole season, this has been the focus race.”

The reigning world champion, Jorgensen is sitting out the next two WTS stops this season, and will return to racing at the WTS Grand Final in Chicago on Sept. 18.

True finished fourth at London 2012 and is currently ranked No. 3 in the Columbia Threadneedle ITU World Triathlon Series rankings. She finished last season as the runner-up in the ITU World Championships (determined by series season rankings) and now will prepare to compete on her second Olympic team.

“I was trying to race for position and not race for the podium. I was fighting for third but Vicky went down and she still got it. She’s my buddy and I’m super psyched for her, but it would have been nice to be on the podium,” True said. “I knew it was going to be hard this year. We have so much depth. I’m happy I got through. I know I sound like a broken record, but after London, I learned that I didn’t approach the race as a potential medalist. Now I have a year to wrap my head around that and train accordingly. I’m just trying to stay healthy, progress and peak at the right time.”

Jorgensen, 29, and True, 33, become the sixth and seventh members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, joining pentathlete Nathan Schrimsher, table tennis player Yue “Jennifer” Wu, and open water swimmers Jordan Wilimovsky, Sean Ryan and Haley Anderson, all of whom qualified last month.

In the men’s race, Greg Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was the top American finisher in 15th and Joe Maloy (Wildwood Crest, N.J.) was 16th. Reigning world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Javier Gomez of Spain claimed the win.

American Tommy Zaferes (Soquel, Calif.) was in fourth position out of the water and connected with the lead pack, including Gomez, Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain, and seven others. The group of 10 lost two athletes due to a bike incident, and by the end of the bike leg had raced to a gap of more than 90 seconds, much like in the women’s race.

Despite rising temperatures, once out on the run, Gomez and Vincent Luis of France peeled away from the field, while Zaferes held his position in the top eight through the first half of the run. Known runners like Richard Murray of South Africa and Mario Mola of Spain who had been in the chase group made contact with Zaferes on the third lap. Zaferes slowed his pace in the final lap, but Billington and Maloy kept charging to finish in the top 20.

“Actually it worked exactly how I thought it would,” Zaferes said after the race. “I went for it on the run in the first two laps, and then once I was outside the top eight, I shut it down because of my past history with the heat. I just did my thing to get the best result on the run, and I just didn’t have it the last 5k.”

“Obviously the goal coming in was top eight, because that would get me a spot,” Billington said. “It’s a deep American field now, and there are a lot of guys I’m racing against to be top American, but when you go into a race, that’s never your goal. Your goal is to compete on an international level. I was happy to have a good run and stay solid. I’ve been progressing all year, I think we’ve done what we need to do. It’s been great to have the support of USAT. I’m grateful for them setting me up to have a great race today.”

Though the World Olympic Qualification Event was not part of the World Triathlon Series, the event featured many of the best athletes in the sport competing for National Federation quota spots and in some cases, individual qualification. The World Triathlon Series resumes in Stockholm on Aug. 22-23, followed by Edmonton on Sept. 5-6. The elites will be racing in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final on Sept. 18-19 as part of a week of world championship action in Chicago.

2015 Rio de Janeiro ITU World Olympic Qualification Event
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Elite Women – Complete Results
1. Gwen Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.), 1:58:46
2. Non Stanford (GBR), 1:59:05
3. Vicky Holland (GBR), 1:59:27

U.S. Finishers
4. Sarah True (Hanover, N.H.), 1:59:46
6. Katie Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.), 2:00:26
12. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 2:01:27
17. Erin Jones (Hood River, Ore.), 2:02:18
26. Lindsey Jerdonek (Brecksville, Ohio), 2:03:35
31. Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.), 2:04:33
52. Kaitlin Donner (Satellite Beach, Fla.), 2:09:06
53. Renée Tomlin (Ocean City, N.J.), 2:09:46

Elite Men – Complete Results
1. Javier Gomez (ESP), 1:48:26
2. Vincent Luis (FRA), 1:48:40
3. Richard Murray (RSA), 1:49:01

U.S. Finishers
15. Greg Billington (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:50:26
16. Joe Maloy (Wildwood Crest, N.J.), 1:50:36
27. Tommy Zaferes (Soquel, Calif.), 1:51:27
41. Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:52:16
58. Ben Kanute (Geneva, Ill.), 1:56:14
60. Kevin McDowell (Geneva, Ill.), 1:57:18

 

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FSN Triathlon – Florida Swim Network