American Gwen Jorgensen ran her way to her fifth WTS victory of the season and the world championship title in Edmonton. Fellow American Sarah Groff finished fourth to earn the silver spot on the world championship podium. With the win, Jorgensen becomes the fourth American female to be named ITU world champion and the first since Sheila Taormina did it in 2004.
Thanks to winning four consecutive WTS races this season, American Gwen Jorgensen only needed to place 16th or higher in order to be named the ITU world champion, but she ended up running her way into first place on the 10K run for her eighth WTS title and first world championship crown. “I knew I only had to get top 16 to be world champion,” Jorgensen said. “I really wanted to win it on this day, and it’s been the sole focus all year.”
The world title is the perfect end to Jorgensen’s record-breaking 2014 season, in which she earned five WTS titles—she’s the only woman in WTS history to win five events, and she ties the record with Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain, who won five series events in 2009.
Fellow American Sarah Groff finished the race in fourth place and the runner-up in the world, and Kiwi Andrea Hewitt pushed the pace all day and wound up in second place in the Grand Final and third in the world.
The race started in sunny and slightly windy conditions in Hawrelak Park near downtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Out of the two-lap swim, Carolina Routier (ESP), Margit Vanek (HUN), Hewitt and Rebecca Clarke (NZL) were first into T1, and Jorgensen and fellow American Katie Hursey made the lead pack on the bike. Jorgensen was only 18 seconds down, behind American Sarah Haskins, coming out of the water but couldn’t stick with the leaders and was in the chase pack, along with Jodie Stimpson (GBR).
In the lead pack on the bike were 18 women, with Kiwis Hewitt, Nicky Samuels and Kate McIlroy pushing the pace, along with Great Britain’s Lucy Hall. The bike course took athletes on two large loops followed by four small loops. Jorgensen struggled at the start of the bike and kept losing time to the leaders—she and the chase pack were 28 seconds off the lead after the first lap, then 40 seconds after the second, and 1:10 after the third. For the final three laps on the bike, however, 2008 U.S. Olympian Haskins—known for her strong swim-bike combo—took the lead in the chase pack, keeping Jorgensen’s deficit to only 68 seconds out of T2.
Hewitt, Groff and Samuels pulled out in front early into the four-lap, 10K run, but Jorgensen started gaining time immediately. She started picking women off and moved into the lead at the start of the fourth lap. ““I tried to get everyone working—well the group tried to work, but you know how it is on the bike,” Hewitt said. “We had just over one minute I think heading onto the run, so we tried our hardest, we went out hard on the run, but [Jorgensen] just kept creeping up, and on that last lap she came past.”
Jorgensen used a 33:24 10K to take the victory and gold in the series, while Hewitt held on for second and the bronze medal overall, and Samuels earned third. Groff fell off the pace during the second lap and finished fourth but with the silver position in the series.
“I think I made the race difficult for myself in the beginning but I was really happy with the finish,” Jorgensen said after the race. “I was very grateful Sarah Haskins was working really hard in our group as was Jodie [Stimpson] and Flora Duffy, so I was really thankful for that.”
Before this year and since 2009, when the world championship title came from points accumulated in the overall series instead of just one race, Groff had been the only American to ever finish on the podium in the overall series, which she did with a bronze in 2011. “Honestly it was just a struggle to stay on the podium for the series for me,” Groff said. “I had to fight the entire day. … Sometimes you’ve got it and sometimes you don’t, and today I had enough.”
The American 1-2 finish bodes well as the U.S. looks toward the 2016 Olympics. “It is huge for the U.S.,” Jorgensen said of the 1-2 American finish. “I think it just shows so much what USA Triathlon has been doing for their athletes and I think it just shows huge dividends and I think it’s really exciting into the qualifying year and going into Rio.”
The points earned today will all go toward Olympic team selections and will help determine how many Olympics spots are allotted to each country.
Several other story lines also developed today, including speculation about why American Sarah Haskins chose to race Edmonton rather than the high-paying Hy-Vee Elite Cup this weekend. Many believe she could have been asked by USA Triathlon to play a domestique role in the Grand Final—to use her swim-bike skills to help Jorgensen earn the victory, which she did by pulling the chase group for the final three laps of the bike then dropping out during the run (Haskins has been battling an injury the second half of this season that has affected her run). The idea of a domestique is something USA Triathlon has said they would entertain for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, as long as it’s a tested and proven formula.
Also, Edmonton native Findlay was the only Canadian left racing in front of her home crowd after the bike—Sarah-Anne Brault dropped out after the swim, and Kirsten Sweetland dropped out during the bike. Findlay’s been battling a hip injury for more than two years, and her coach, Siri Lindley, was ecstatic to see her finish 15th with a solid 36:28 10K. Lindley won the ITU world champion crown for the U.S. on this exact course in 2001.
ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Edmonton
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – Aug. 30, 2014
1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run
1. Gwen Jorgensen USA 2:00:05
2. Andrea Hewitt NZL 2:00:21
3. Nicky Samuels NZL 2:00:31
4. Sarah Groff USA 2:01:20
5. Aileen Reid IRL 2:01:21
6. Claudia Rivas MEX 2:01:22
7. Sara Vilic AUT 2:01:24
8. Pamela Oliveira BRA 2:01:26
9. Katie Hursey USA 2:01:27
10. Rachel Klamer NED 2:01:30
Final 2014 Threadneedle ITU World Triathlon Series Rankings
1. Gwen Jorgensen USA 5085
2. Sarah Groff USA 3987
3. Andrea Hewitt NZL 3845
4. Jodie Stimpson GBR 3453
5. Nicky Samuels NZL 3073
6. Helen Jenkins GBR 2903
7. Emma Jackson AUS 2647
8. Aileen Reid IRL 2543
9. Kirsten Sweetland CAN 2540
10. Alice Betto ITA 2518