Helen Jenkins

Katie Zaferes
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Katie Zaferes wins first World Triathlon Series race; Gwen Jorgensen 3rd

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Katie Zaferes re-established herself as an Olympic medal contender, while Gwen Jorgensen suffered just her second defeat in more than two years at the final World Triathlon Series race before Rio in Hamburg on Saturday.

In a sprint race — half the Olympic distance — Zaferes notched her first career World Series win after five runner-up finishes in 2015. It came after Zaferes missed the podium in her previous two World Series starts — 24th at the 2015 Grand Final in Chicago and sixth in Yokohama, Japan, on May 14.

“This beginning of the year wasn’t what I wanted to be, and I wasn’t racing like the Katie I know I am,” Zaferes told the host broadcast after her Hamburg win in 57 minutes, 3 seconds. “[Today] I was the same person I was last year.”

Zaferes prevailed by 11 seconds over the Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer and by 26 seconds over the world champion Jorgensen, who couldn’t erase all of a 1:02 deficit going into the 5km run. Jorgensen made up 44 places in the standings on the run. Full results are here.

“I’m disappointed, a little bit gutted with my race, but to have Katie cross the line first, definitely bittersweet today” Jorgensen said. “It started in the swim, wasn’t the front pack in the swim, just didn’t have it today. I’m not thrilled.”

Jorgensen was 14 seconds behind after the opening 750-meter swim and lost another 48 seconds on the 20-kilometer bike.

“Rio’s a very different race,” Jorgensen said of what lies ahead Aug. 20, when she could become the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion. “It’s Olympic distance, big hill, completely different from this race. But obviously I thought I could have done better today.”

Jorgensen lost for the second time in her last four races.

Brit Helen Jenkins, who came into Saturday as the top threat to Jorgensen, finished 14th in Hamburg in their first head-to-head since Jenkins snapped Jorgensen’s two-year, 12-race World Series winning streak on April 9.

The World Triathlon Series continues after the Olympics, in Edmonton the first weekend of September.

MORE: Men’s triathlon world champion out of Rio

Gwen Jorgensen’s record winning streak snapped

Gwen Jorgensen
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When Gwen Jorgensen‘s run was over, her run was over.

Jorgensen’s record winning streak of 13 top-level international triathlons was snapped emphatically in Gold Coast, Australia, on Saturday.

The favorite in Rio to become the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion lost for the first time since April 26, 2014.

Jorgensen finished second in her first World Series race since Sept. 18, a distant 41 seconds behind Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins after nearly two hours of racing Down Under.

“Helen was really strong today,” Jorgensen said in exhaustion shortly afterward. “She was the better athlete.”

Jorgensen had always been the better athlete — far and away, in some cases — for nearly the last two years.

But on Saturday, she found herself in unfamiliar territory after the 1500m swim and 40km bike going into the final 10km run.

Jorgensen was 1 minute, 32 seconds behind a leading group of Jenkins, New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt and Bermuda’s Flora Duffy.

During her streak, Jorgensen had been known to erase deficits of one minute, or slightly more, on the run, her strongest of the three triathlon disciplines. But never had she faced a gap that wide.

It was too much.

“I missed that [breakaway bike] pack,” Jorgensen said. “I wasn’t up far enough, made a mistake and wasn’t strong enough, and that was the race.”

Jenkins broke free from the three-woman lead group almost immediately on the run and gave up just five seconds to Jorgensen in the first 5km.

Jorgensen caught Duffy and Hewitt on the last of four 2.5km laps, outsprinting Hewitt to the finish line by two seconds. She made up 46 seconds on Jenkins on the final 5km but was never within striking distance of the Brit.

“I can’t quite believe it,” Jenkins said. “But the whole time I’m waiting for Gwen. You can never underestimate how quick Gwen’s running.”

Jenkins, the 2011 World champion, won her first World Series race since May 11, 2012.

She went nearly 18 months between races after a disappointing fifth-place finish at the London Olympics. Jenkins, 32, contemplated retirement while sidelined by injury. She’s been hampered by back, ankle, knee and foot problems the last four years.

Jenkins’ victory could prove vital for her Rio Olympic team hopes.

Two of Great Britain’s three Olympic team members had already been named — Non Stanford and Vicky Holland — and another Brit, Jodie Stimpson, had won the season-opening race in Abu Dhabi on March 5 (which Jorgensen skipped).

As for Jorgensen, shedding the winning streak before the Olympics may actually be a positive. It’s a traditional debate in sports whether that kind of streak, and the pressure that rides with it, can be a burden going into a championship.

“She doesn’t need to prove herself now,” 2008 Olympic champion Emma Frodeno said on the Gold Coast broadcast. “She’s still thinking about August. … This could be the best thing that could happen to her, unfortunately for the other athletes.”

Jorgensen’s streak of 13 straight top-level triathlons, and 12 straight in World Series competition, ends as the longest in history.

Pre-World Series, 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.

The World Series continues in two weeks in Cape Town, South Africa.

MORE: Jorgensen: I debated quitting triathlon in 2014