For Olympic triathlete Nicola Spirig, this will already be the third time she lands in Israel to compete here, and yet she is still excited for her upcoming competition and opening the official competition season. In an interview conducted with her, which you can read below, she says that although the Tokyo Olympic Games will take place at the end of July this year, her first official half the distance competition in 2020 will be here in Israel at the Israman. Although she is a professional competitor in the Olympic distance, her career also includes several half-distance competitions, and on January 31, she will do so at the Israman, in the Red Sea and Eilat.
Spirig's record of titles includes the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Four years later she finished second at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after Gwen Jorgensen. Her cupboard also includes the 2007 World Cup winning title and six wins in the European Triathlon Championships (2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2018) and this is the main reason why in her country she is considered a sport icon with high hopes for another medal in the Tokyo Olympic Games.
As an Olympic champion in London 2012 and second place at the Olympic champion in Rio 2016, what are your expectations for Tokyo 2020?
"Tokyo 2020 will be my fifth participation at Olympics, I am very fascinated by Olympic Games, on the one hand, because it's an absolutely unique event with the best athletes of every sports coming together and having the huge challenge to perform on one single, specific day every four years. On the other hand, it's very interesting for me to go to my fifth Olympics because my circumstances over the years has changed. I always had to change my training and preparation each time so in the end, I will be able to show my best possible performance. This preparation now for Tokyo, is again a huge challenge, because preparing as a mother of three young children is definitely not easy and needs other planning and training than as a single professional athlete. But I still have high expectations and if everything goes well, I want to be able to compete among the best athletes in Tokyo".
You gave birth eight months ago and returned to competing three months later – How do you combine your motherhood with your professional career?
"Since I have children, the family has first priority in my life. To be able to still live my passion and work as a professional athlete is a big privilege for me. It is not easy to combine both, it needs a lot of organization and flexibility at the same time, and a lot of energy from my side and support and help from a lot of people in my surrounding. I am lucky to have a husband who supports me 100% and who has the main responsibility for the kids, which means we changed roles and I am working and he is staying home when I train. We both spend a lot of time with the children. I also see them a lot between training sessions, which is a big plus for both of us.
Physically, a pregnancy takes a lot out of you, but it recovers quite quickly, and I think in certain areas the body is stronger after having children than before. Mentally, it's not easy to try and be the best possible mum and the best possible athlete while also having sponsor events, media requests etc, the day just doesn’t seem to have enough hours. I have to set priorities and I think I am good in using my day as best as I can and be efficient. It takes a lot of work, but as I mentioned above I still think it’s a huge privilege to be able to live the life we live at the moment and be able to do both, having children and be a professional athlete".
What do you know about the, Israman, the Israeli Ironman competition?
"I have never done Israman before, but I heard about it. From looking at the race course I know it’s very beautiful, but also very tough and challenging. When my business partner told me that Israman is open for a cooperation with our triathlon series from Spirit, I was very happy to hear that because Israman fits perfectly into this race series of honest, challenging courses with very professional organization and unique race sites. I have been in Eilat twice before, won my first World Cup and became European Champion there, so I will return with very good memories".
What experience have you gained so far at half Ironman in competitions?
"I have never focused on the half Ironman distance but still did quite a few half distance races over the years to prepare for my Olympic distance season. I think I did about 13 half distance races, was on the podium in everyone and won about seven of them. I always have big respect for those races as it is an unusual long distance for me which I am not specifically trained for, but I am also excited because I like challenges and it’s a completely different racing style than in my Olympic distance races".
As a professional athlete you are very competitive and want to win, do you plan to win at Israman?
"As I mentioned above, half Ironman races are not what I am prepared for in my training. I am focused on the Olympics in Tokyo this season and therefore, train for Olympic distance. I will race Israman with my normal road bike, not a time trial bike, to get the best possible training for Olympic distance out of it, and I won't do many long rides or runs until then. Coming out of Switzerland I am used to temperatures of 0⸰ C and will probably suffer a bit in the heat. This all means I am not prepared very well and there might be athletes that are better prepared than me. For me, it's about starting my racing season at the Israman, having a great experience and enjoying the race while gaining fitness for my Olympic preparation. But I wouldn’t be the athlete I am if I wouldn’t try to win every race I start".
What would you like to say to the Israeli audience?
"I am really excited to participate in the Israman. As I said above, I have been to Eilat before and I have some very good memories from the spectators and the friendly local people. So, I am looking forward to my visit in Israel and want to thank the organizers for this opportunity and the local people and spectators for the support".