Golden advice from Olympic triathlon champion
By Greg Bach
Gwen Jorgensen, winner of the United States’ first-ever Olympic triathlon gold medal last summer in Rio, has emerged as one of the sport’s most dominating performers.
She’s captured World Championships and won a lot of races around the globe.
But she’s not the first to the finish line every time (though it may feel like it to many of her competitors.)
On those days where she doesn’t get the result she was hoping for she doesn’t dwell on the outcome.
And she encourages today’s young athletes in all sports to move on quickly from those performances that don’t meet expectations.
“It is good to be focused when you are competing, but after the race or game don't beat yourself up thinking about what you could have done better,” says Jorgensen. “Focus your energy on doing your best, and after you can give yourself a couple hours to ponder what happened. But find something to think and talk about outside of the sport. You need balance to be successful.”
FIGHTING THROUGH FRUSTRATIONS
Through a lifetime of competing in sports – she swam and ran at the University of Wisconsin – she knows there are twists and turns in the journey, and challenges to take on along the way.
“When I was in middle school I couldn't beat the times I was going in practice,” she says. “Mentally I froze at big meets and so in practice I would often go faster. It was frustrating as a kid because I didn't understand how to mentally prepare for races.”
But instead of surrendering to the frustration, and bailing out on the sport, she stuck with it and worked things out.
“I'm glad I stayed in the sport and didn't give up,” she says. “I would get frustrated, but stuck with swimming because I loved it and eventually I turned into an athlete who is better on race day than in practice.”
It’s easy for kids to get wrapped up in the emotions that accompany competing, and take setbacks and losses hard.
Jorgensen was the same way growing up.
“I think the biggest piece of advice I would give my younger self is to not take sports so seriously,” she says. “Sport doesn't define you, although it is a big part of what you do. Don't be too hard on yourself. Have fun while you are doing the sport, but also find time for other things in your life.”
Jorgensen has fond memories of her youth swimming days. During the days leading up to big meets her and her friends would cut back on their candy consumption – and then it would kick back in on race day.
“My best friends were all on my swimming team,” she says. “It seems funny now to look back, but it was so much fun to go to the candy store and then be at a swim meet all day with my friends eating junk food and hanging out.”
Olympic softball great Andrea Duran on using failure to work harder and achieve more
Olympic steeplechaser Colleen Quigley on the value of trying a variety of sports and how it shaped the trajectory of her life
Dr. Christopher Ahmad, co-author of PLAY BALL and head team physician for the New York Yankees, on keeping kids out of operating rooms and on the field
WNBA star Allisha Gray inspires young athletes to fight through tough games and difficult injuries because she has been there and done that