What Gwen Jorgensen asked Ironman star Mirinda Carfrae

Gwen Jorgensen
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Gwen Jorgensen, an overwhelming Olympic gold-medal favorite who hasn’t lost a top-level international triathlon since April 2014, felt like an underdog at a special November competition.

At the Island House Invitational in the Bahamas, Jorgensen faced a unique field including Olympic-distance rivals like London silver medalist Lisa Norden as well as Ironman champions Leanda Cave and Mirinda Carfrae.

The new event was foreign to Jorgensen, a three-day stage race a month and a half after the conclusion of her grueling and undefeated international season.

“I didn’t think I was going to win,” she said.

Husbands and wives of the men’s and women’s competitors made predictions as well. Even Jorgensen’s husband, Patrick Lemieux, didn’t pick her.

Yet Jorgensen prevailed by 34 seconds over Norden after nearly 3 hours, 30 minutes of combined racing over three days.

The format ended up favoring the Olympic-distance triathletes over the Ironman field, understandable given the Island House event was less than a month removed from the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

The full Ironman takes the top women about nine hours to complete. Jorgensen’s usual races last one hour (sprint distance) or two hours (Olympic distance).

The event provided an opportunity for Jorgensen, arguably en route to becoming the greatest female Olympic-level triathlete of all time, to face the Australian Carfrae, the Ironman Kona course-record holder and one of four women to own at least three Kona titles.

Jorgensen has not expressed interest in moving up to Ironman, like so many Olympians have done. Most notable is Jan Frodeno, who last year became the first person to couple Olympic and Ironman Kona triathlon titles.

But she wanted to speak with Carfrae.

“I know everything about [Ironman triathletes],” Jorgensen said. “I feel like I’m stalker-ish almost. … When you’re in the triathlon world, you hear about them all. So it was nice to actually meet them.

“I talked a lot about what happens in Kona. I said, ‘Are you doing interviews the day before a race? How do you handle that the morning of a race?’ [Carfrae’s] like, ‘Well, the morning of the race, Gwen, we start early in the morning.’ Just something that I don’t even think of. My races don’t start until 4 [p.m.], or [11 a.m.]. So I’m thinking you have all morning, but they obviously don’t. I definitely picked her brain.”

MORE: Gwen Jorgensen on nearly quitting triathlon in 2014

2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships
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2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

Chelsea Sodaro
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Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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