Go, Gwen, Go
Authors: Nancy Jorgensen and Elizabeth Jorgensen,
Biography, 312 pages
Date Published: 2019
Publisher: Meyer Meyer Sport
Reviewed by: Walter Rhein https://streetsoflima.com/
An Intimate Glimpse Into the Olympic Journey
Go, Gwen, Go follows the career of Olympic gold medalist and dominant world class triathlete Gwen Jorgensen. There are a lot of books about the Olympic journey out there and they generally fall into two categories. There are the books written by the athletes themselves which tend to be a bit overly technical, and then there are the books written by professional writers that tend to be too distant from the athletes and the sport. Go, Gwen, Go fits somewhere in between those extremes as it is written by Gwen's sister Elizabeth and her mother Nancy who are gifted writers with the access and confidence that is only available to family.
Truly great books manage to capture something that makes the final result more than the sum of the parts. Go, Gwen, Go does a great job of detailing Jorgensen's remarkable string of victories. But what I most appreciated about this book was the kind relationships and support group that exists within the family unit. You can watch Olympic coverage all your life and never be privy to the quiet moments when a family enjoys sweet bread together from a street vendor in a distant country. There are many of those moments captured in the pages of this book. You get glimpses about the author's private lives as well which add a complete context to Gwen's story.
Elizabeth and Nancy Jorgensen always write with an affection and support that never falls into adulation and they present Gwen as humble, disciplined, and highly dedicated to her craft. As you read the story there is a growing sense of inevitability that Gwen will achieve greatness in her discipline as she comes out of essentially nowhere and quickly begins to achieve podium results against world class competition.
There are a few brief passages where Gwen expresses doubts about her choice to pursue triathlon, although in real life I'm sure the earlier days must have been filled with more uncertainty. Gwen is conflicted about whether she should pursue her professional career as an accountant and at first she trains while working a full time job. She has student loans and other financial obligations and has landed a good job with a quality firm that offers considerable stability. Gradually, as it becomes clear she has world class talent, her firm agrees to provide her with reduced hours so she can take a real shot at athletic glory.
One of the strong parts of this book is capturing the visceral excitement of Gwen's early victories. Triathlon involves swimming, cycling, and running, and Jorgensen is a superior runner. Because running is the last leg of the event, every one of Gwen's victories takes the shape of a come from behind win as she must make up time on the final component of the course. The amount of time that Gwen is able to make up on world class athletes is absolutely stunning.
Anyone who is interested in the sport of triathlon will find valuable information in this book. I appreciated the philosophy of breaking the race down into its component parts and then working the process. Reducing a race to manageable pieces helps improve focus, reduce stress, and avoid critical mistakes.
Triathlon is not an easy sport, and with the various disciplines involved as well as the complexities of the transitions, stringing together a series of victories like Gwen Jorgensen does is truly remarkable. A flat tire, illness, or even a poor night's sleep can be the difference between the podium and 50th place against world class competition. That Jorgensen managed first after first after first despite all these obstacles is absolutely amazing.
Go, Gwen, Go is well written and assembled with considerable craftsmanship by two dedicated biographers. The honest and delightful prose of Nancy and Elizabeth Jorgensen is also augmented by excerpts from blog posts, emails, and post race comments by Gwen Jorgensen. It's easy to admire this humble family that supports each other and takes sincere joy in their mutual achievements. You might think that's the way a family is supposed to be, but such relationships aren't all that common.
Go, Gwen, Go is a delightful read that is a great choice for athletes of all ages. The book is a remarkable achievement and a worthy record of Gwen Jorgensen's amazing record in triathlon. It is also a snapshot into the life of a humble and dedicated family. If you're beginning a career as a triathlete, model yourself after Gwen Jorgensen. If you're beginning a family, model yourself after the Jorgensens.
Reviewer Walter Rhein lives in Chippewa Falls, WI and is the author of Beyond Birkie Fever. He has been a featured writer at the Chippewa Valley Book Festival and the Fox Cities Book Festival. You can follow him at Facebook.com/authorwalterrhein/or on Twitter at @stsoflima.
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