Triathlon: Jorgensen set to be her sport's first crossover star

Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:21pm EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Gwen Jorgensen is poised to become triathlon's first real crossover star after her Olympic victory on Saturday propelled the American from the sporting backwaters to front-cover status.

Jorgensen has been the dominant force in women's triathlon for two years but ITU circuit wins in far-flung corners of the world meant she remained well under the radar in a country awash with world-class talent in sports that dominate the airwaves.

While triathlon names such as Mark Allen and Dave Scott pricked the American public consciousness through their prodigious achievements at the Hawaii Ironman in the 1980s and 1990s, the shorter version of the sport has always been something of a niche attraction.

However, after a crushing performance to out-run Swiss defending champion Nicola Spirig-Hug on Saturday, Jorgensen now has Olympic gold, a first for the country that invented the sport but which has only Susan Williams' bronze in 2004 to show for its efforts since triathlon joined the Games in 2000.

At 30, well-spoken, modest despite her fantastic achievements and an inspirational example to aspiring sportswomen, sponsors are likely to be queuing up, not just for her signature but for a piece of the triathlon action.

Jorgensen already has deals with Asics, Oakley and her former employer Ernst & Young and can count on many more to come.

"I think it will raise awareness and create momentum for a sport with a very strong and avid group of fans and participants," sports marketing expert David Abrutyn of Bruin Sports Capital said.

"Olympic medals are great drivers of sport that don't usually have the stage and scale that the Games provide.    Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Triathlon - Final - Women's Final - Fort Copacabana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 20/08/2016. Gwen Jorgensen (USA) of USA and Nicola Spirig (SUI) of Switzerland compete. REUTERS/Jeff Pachoud/Pool