Gwen Jorgensen has completely dominated the sport of triathlon in recent years.
She won 12 consecutive World Triathlon Series races in 2014 and 2015, including back-to-back world championship titles.
Her greatest strength is her running speed. She recorded the fastest run leg in all seven of her World Triathlon Series races in 2015. Four of those triathlons featured an Olympic-distance 10km run. In those races, she finished the run leg an average of 46 seconds before the second-fastest triathlete.
Jorgensen is such a fast runner that opponents seem to concede the race if she is near the lead group after the bike leg.
“There will be times where we are in a bike pack, and you realize that some people are like, ‘Gwen’s here, let’s give up,’” said fellow U.S. triathlete Sarah True. “I’m like, ‘Keep on racing! Always keep on racing!’”
Given her running speed, the formula for defeating Jorgensen seems simple, although it is easier said than done.
“You know she can’t be touched on the run,” True said. “You have to open up a gap in the swim and the bike.”
Jorgensen has occasionally proved vulnerable on the bicycle leg. She finished 38th at the 2012 London Olympics after suffering a flat tire on the bike. In her last defeat before the start of her winning streak, in Cape Town in 2014, she settled for third after being slowed by a bike crash in front of her.
To defeat Jorgensen, in the absence of any bike accidents or malfunctions, a competitor will likely have to make a very aggressive move on the bicycle leg, and then have enough endurance to maintain the lead on the run leg.
“It’s going to come down to taking some risks,” True said. “Just going for it and seeing what happens.”
Jorgensen is well aware that she has a target on her back.
“Everyone is trying to beat me,” she said, “and I’m trying to beat them.”
Triathletes who have set their sights on beating Jorgensen on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET, in alphabetical order:
Flora Duffy (BER)
Duffy thought that she had Jorgensen beat when she was leading by 100 seconds at the start of the 10,000m run at a race in Leeds, Great Britain in June. Jorgensen not only caught up to Duffy, but she also managed to cross the finish line with a 51 second lead of her own.
Andrea Hewitt (NZL)
Hewitt finished second, behind Jorgensen, in the 2015 World Triathlon Series rankings. But she has not won a top-level race since 2011.
Vicky Holland (GBR)
Holland won two World Triathlon Series races in 2015. But they were both races that Jorgensen skipped.
Helen Jenkins (GBR)
Jenkins was able to build enough of a lead on the bike leg to defeat Jorgensen at the 2016 race in Gold Coast, Australia. It was the first loss in a World Triathlon Series race since 2014 for Jorgensen, who finished in second place, a distant 41 seconds behind Jenkins.
Non Stanford (GBR)
Stanford made Jorgensen work hard at the 2015 World Triathlon Series Grand Final. Stanford claimed the lead early in the run leg, but Jorgensen was able to catch up and pull ahead in the final 2.5 km.
Sarah True (USA)
True has consistently finished at the top of the World Triathlon Series rankings. She was second in 2014, behind Jorgensen, and third in 2015.
Katie Zaferes (USA)
Zaferes defeated Jorgensen by establishing a large lead on the bike leg at a race in Hamburg on July 16. It was the last race for both women before the 2016 Olympics.