Accountants are often considered to be boring people, who wouldn’t leave their desktop computer for anything in the world. But that’s not really true. There are some accountants who are Olympic Gold medal winners, such as Gwen Jorgensen.
Gwen is a very talented accountant who is excellent when working with numbers. She is a corporate tax accountant if great merit. But she is more than that. Gwen won the gold medal in the Women’s Triathlon at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, held earlier this year.
Gwen studied at the University of Wisconsin, where she excelled at swimming and running in the mid-2000s. She then became a licensed CPA and started working for the major accounting firm Ernst & Young.
But she never quite lost her love for running. The USA Triathlon team got interested in her. They had been watching her at swimming and running events and told her that she had the ability to not only represent her country in the Olympics, but win a medal as well.
Gwen didn’t want anything to interfere with her work as an accountant initially, so wasn’t too keen on the offer. But USA Triathlon said she could train even as she worked at her job. That was better.
Gwen said in a recent interview with the CGMA Magazine, “We won’t grow unless we push ourselves. I do things that scare me all the time, but it allows me to grow and learn.”
Gwen started training every morning. She went to work after that, and trained again in the evening. Her social life was non-existent during this time as much of her time was taken up by work and athletic training.
She went on races on weekends and travelled overseas on many occasions to participate in international athletic events.
Then she realized that she wasn’t giving it all to her Olympic Dream. She then made a big career decision, choosing to leave her firm to leave for Australia, where she trained under a famous coach, Jamie Turner, who has helped many athletes become Olympic athletes.
Gwen talks about the impact her coach had on her: “He said to stop using the word ‘sacrifice’, and instead use the word ‘investment’. I kept saying, ‘I’m not willing to make that sacrifice (of being away from home).’ He said, ‘View it as an investment in your future.’ Daily, I would do things that weren’t always fun, but I knew I was making an investment in my future and believed I would have a return on my investments.”
She didn’t do too well in the London 2012 Olympics, finishing 38th in the race because of a flat tire while cycling. But she didn’t lose hope and after that she won 19 of the 21 races she participated at before the 2016 Olympics. She was the overwhelming favorite at Rio and she lived up to the billing, easily beating her competition.
Gwen admits that she is not too good at cycling – it’s running and swimming that she is very good at. But she has been able to overcome her handicap after years of practice.
She says accounting is no different from participating in the Olympics – you have to learn new skills to get over your weaknesses, and get comfortable with what makes you uncomfortable – much in the manner that she mastered cycling, at which she wasn’t good at.