Olympic triathlon gold medallist Gwen Jorgensen announced yesterday in a YouTube video that she has decided to try to qualify for the 10,000m and possibly the 5,000m on the track for the Tokyo Olympics, since her extended recovery from heel surgery has temporarily derailed her marathon plans.
The athlete sounded happier and more positive after having made this decision, in conjunction with her Bowerman Track Club coach, Jerry Schumacher, than she did in her previous video, which detailed her recovery from surgery to correct a Haglund’s Deformity on her heel. (It was the same surgery former NOP marathoner Galen Rupp had directly after last year’s Chicago Marathon, where he finished fifth.)
“It’s never easy to change goals,” Jorgensen says, “but I know that this is going to be the best for me in both the short term and the long term, and lead to the most success in both the short and the long term.”
Despite disappointing results in the marathon, and then surgery, Jorgensen says she has not given up on the marathon. In fact, she says she’s excited to work on her speed on the track, which will ultimately benefit her in the marathon long-term. She adds that she has plenty of unexplored potential on the track, having only raced one 10,000m and one 5,000m on the track last year, where she ran 15:15 (the qualifying standard for the trials is 15:20), only three months after joining the club.
She’s also feeling grounded and confident thanks to her coach’s confidence that this is the right move, and that she can make the team. “For me, having Jerry believe in me and believe that the track trials is the right choice makes me super excited to do this,” says Jorgensen.
If her recovery had not taken more than six months rather than the expected three months, Jorgensen almost certainly would have tried to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials on February 29. The decision to switch distances gives her a much longer window to fully recover her fitness, train and qualify for U.S. qualifiers, which go from June 19 to June 28 in Eugene, Oregon.
The risk is that since only the top three finishers at US Marathon Trials make the Olympic team, those who don’t make it but who have strong track performances in the past will try to make it on the track, giving Jorgensen more competition than she has currently. Hopefully that will prove to be an inspiration rather than another setback.
Paris 2024 is a long way away, but the assumption is that she will return to the marathon after the current Olympic cycle.