Gwen Jorgensen completed a perfect season, repeated as World champion and won her 13th straight top-level international triathlon in the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in drizzly Chicago on Friday.
Jorgensen, heavily favored to become the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion next year, prevailed by 29 seconds in 1:55:36 over Great Britain’s Non Stanford. Britain’s Vicky Holland was third. Full results here.
Jorgensen was in the lead group after the 1500m swim (five seconds behind) and the 40km bike (also five seconds behind) but did not crush the run as hard as normal.
Stanford and Holland stayed with her for the first 7.5 of 10km before Jorgensen made her move and pulled away by so much that she was able to rest her sunglasses on top of her head, look behind her and grab an American flag before crossing the finish line.
“They’re pretty tough,” Jorgensen said of the Brits shortly after winning. “I was really hurting today and had no idea what was going to happen. Non was leading a lot of the run, and I was just trying to stick with her.”
“Her kick was phenomenal,” Stanford said of Jorgensen.
Jorgensen entered seven World Triathlon Series events this season and won all of them. Her last top-level individual triathlon loss was April 26, 2014.
“I never would have thought that, to be able to perform on so many different days when I’m not feeling well or feeling well, or hilly courses, it just doesn’t seem real,” Jorgensen said.
The former Ernst & Young accountant notched her 15th career win in 31 World Triathlon Series starts, extending the longest men’s or women’s win streak in series history.
Pre-WTS, Australian Emma Carney and Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes were unbeaten across 12 straight International Triathlon Union World Cup races, but they lost separate World Championships races during those streaks.
Jorgensen and another London Olympian, Sarah True, became the first two of a maximum three women to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic triathlon team with first- and fourth-place finishes in an Olympic test event in Rio on Aug. 2.
A third woman, favored to be Katie Zaferes, will be determined in 2016.
True was seventh Friday and finished third in the overall standings this season behind Jorgensen and New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt. Zaferes was 24th, though she’s finished runner-up in half of this season’s races and finished fifth in the season-long standings. Full standings here.
The 2016 World Triathlon Series begins in Abu Dhabi the first weekend in March.
In Rio, Jorgensen, True and perhaps Zaferes will look to join Susan Williams, who took bronze at Athens 2004, as U.S. Olympic triathlon medalists. Triathlon debuted at the Sydney 2000 Games.
In 2012, Jorgensen placed a disappointing 38th at the Olympics after suffering a flat tire on the bike and crossed the finish line thinking only about gold in Rio. True was fourth at the London Olympics as Sarah Groff, two years before marrying distance runner Ben True.
“We all know that [Jorgensen] is setting the level,” said Holland, who was closest to Jorgensen during the streak with a five-second loss in Hamburg on July 18. “She’s the target. She’ll know that. We’ve got a year now to work on that and really try and up our game and challenge her next year.”
The last defeat for some of the U.S.’ most dominant current and former female individual Olympic sports athletes:
Serena Williams (Tennis): Sept. 11, 2015
Adeline Gray (Wrestling): July 27, 2014 (25 straight wins)
Gwen Jorgensen (Triathlon): April 26, 2014 (13 straight wins)
Katie Ledecky (Swimming): Jan. 18, 2014 (31 straight wins)
Simone Biles (Gymnastics): March 30, 2013 (9 straight wins)
Claressa Shields (Boxing): May 13, 2012 (more than 30 straight wins)
Ronda Rousey (MMA/Judo): Aug. 13, 2008 (more than 15 straight wins)
Jorgensen’s streak includes only top-level individual international triathlon races. Ledecky’s includes only long-course meters 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle finals. Biles’ includes only all-around competitions. Rousey’s includes MMA fights and judo matches.
MORE TRIATHLON: Gwen Jorgensen’s bike helmet includes Paul Bunyan, Bucky Badger