Triathletes made history last week at the International Triathlon Union‘s World Triathlon Grand Final, which for the first time in its history, had back-to-back champions for both the men’s and women’s finals.
Over 9,000 athletes and paratriathletes—athletes with disabilities—from more than 60 countries converged on Chicago’s lakefront for the ITU series, which was categorized by age, distance, gender and rank.
Spain’s Javier Gomez finished second in the men’s event, behind countryman Mario Mola, but still scored enough points to capture his third consecutive and fifth overall men’s championship. Gomez is the first male triathlete to achieve either feat.
Gomez said that while making history was not his top priority, it was still an honor.
“Sometimes we’re too focused on ourselves and trying to do our best, and we’re not worried about all that [history],” he told reporters during a press conference Wednesday.
“But being part of that history—it’s just amazing.”
On the women’s side, Gwen Jorgensen of the United States claimed her second straight women’s title.
Although she was the defending champion and favorite heading into the race, she said she was not taking anything for granted or setting unrealistic expectations.
“I told my team, ‘look, if I don’t do anything but qualify for the Olympics, it’ll be a successful year,’” Jorgensen said in Wednesday’s press conference.
“They laughed at me, because they know how competitive I am, and probably rolled their eyes and said, ‘no, you probably won’t be satisfied.’”
Jorgensen said she was blown away by not only the support she has received, but also by the impression she has made on young girls and athletes.
“Moms sent me picture of girls who were writing about me for class, and it was kind of surreal,” she said. “It’s cute and motivating at the same time. If I could get them involved, interested in triathlons, that’s exciting for me.”
While the main events featured high-profile triathletes, not everyone participating in or watching the myriad events had Olympic or Paralympic aspirations.
Calgary, Alberta native Marge Robinson, 64, was at the event to support her husband, who was competing in the 60-64 age-group aquathlon championships. Aquathlon is a two-stage race of swimming and running.
Robinson said she appreciated getting the chance to see Chicago in a new light.
“I came as a university student, but didn’t see much,” Robinson said from the bleachers near Buckingham Fountain as she waited for her husband to finish his race.
“I’m impressed by how much history there is here. It’s fabulous.”