Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt bid for one of the most ambitious doubles in the sport at the 140.6-mile Ironman World Championships on Saturday.
Blummenfelt, 28, will try to become the first triathlete to win an Olympic gold medal and an Ironman world title in the same year. The first Ironman World Championships to be held outside of Hawaii — in St. George, Utah, to be exact — airs live on Peacock starting at 8 a.m. ET.
Saturday night’s Kentucky Derby (on NBC) will feature the most thrilling two minutes in the sport. Earlier in the afternoon, the most grueling eight hours of sport will come to an end.
The Olympic triathlon distance is 32 miles, taking one hour and 45 minutes. The Ironman is a beast apart. Fractionally, the difference is comparable to a 10,000m track race versus a marathon.
German John Frodeno is the only triathlete to have won Olympic gold (2008) and an Ironman title (2015, 2016, 2019) in his career. He followed the traditional trajectory of a longer transition to the Ironman distance, making his debut nearly a year after his last elite Olympic distance race and taking another year after to win the famous world title of Kona.
Blummenfelt, after winning Olympic gold on July 26, made his Ironman debut on November 21. And in that first 140.6 miles, he clocked the fastest time in Ironman distance history: 7 hours, 21 minutes, 12 seconds, despite diarrhea for three days before the race and two toilet breaks during the marathon. .
It was 6 minutes, 41 seconds faster than Frodeno’s record from last July.
There is debate over whether Blummenfelt’s time should be considered a world record. There was a strong swimming current which benefited the competitors from Cozumel. Blummenfelt, who said the swim was the weakest part of his race, covered his 2.4 miles in the water six minutes faster than Frodeno in his previous record.
The Ironman brand does not use the term “world record” anyway due to the variation of courses around the world, as well as seasonal changes in conditions within each course.
Blummenfelt stresses that championships are more important than times, but when pressed, he considers Cozumel’s effort the fastest Ironman in history.
“It’s not like swimming is down a river. It was in the ocean. and the fact that the condition was excellent, there is nothing I can do about it,” he said this week. “And as long as it’s an Ironman-branded race, and it’s approved pre-race to be an Ironman race, there’s nothing I can do.”
Blummenfelt dropped to 10th place at a half Ironman in Dubai in March.
But his chances of winning in St. George – on a hilly course that is unlikely to produce record times – are bolstered by the absences of Frodeno (Achilles) and another German, two-time Ironman world champion. Patrick Lange (shoulder).
“Kristian is actually the favourite”, fellow Norwegian Gustav Iden, who won the Ironman half-world championships in St. George last September (where Blummenfelt was 26th, hopes dashed by a puncture), reportedly said Thursday. “I give everyone the percentages, and I think I gave Kristian a 30% chance of winning.”
Asked what makes it all possible – an Olympic gold medal, followed four months later by an Ironman distance record and now, potentially, an Ironman world title – Blummenfelt first points to genetics: a plus large lung capacity than the average human and a larger heart. His highest recorded VO2 max – a way of measuring aerobic fitness – was “around 90”, which puts him among the best endurance athletes in history (including several fellow Norwegians, cross-country skiers or cyclists ).
Blummenfelt also noted the high-profile advances in scientific testing and data collection – including feces – that have helped Norway, the world’s top winter sports nation, become a force in men’s triathlon in the world. recent years.
“This makes it easier to rotate the energy system to be fine-tuned over longer distances,” he said.
Blummenfelt first felt the itch of ambition as a young swimmer in Bergen, surrounded by fjords.
“Bergen is a city of rain,” he said. “We don’t have good skiing, and it’s on the west coast, so there aren’t a lot of winter sports in town.”
He trained in the same pool as Alexander Dale Oenwho was nine years older and in 2008 won Norway’s first Olympic swimming medal.
“The fact that one day I can see him on TV at the Olympics and then two weeks later he joins us for training camp, the connection has made it easier for me to believe that I can make it happen. too,” Blummenfelt said of Dale Oen, who died suddenly during training camp in Arizona in April 2012.
It was also in 2008 that a swimming coach suggested Blummenfelt try a sprint triathlon. He quickly became, at 15, the oldest member of the start-up’s national team.
Norway had no Olympic triathletes. His original plan was to make his Olympic debut several years away in 2016 and then win it in 2020. He even guaranteed gold in Tokyo in 2018, despite having yet to win a World Series race. high level.
Then, in a sponsor video released in July 2020, Blummenfelt laid out his ultimate challenge: winning the Olympics, the World Series season title, Kona and another Ironman in one year. He checked off the first two last summer.
For Blummenfelt, the one-time change of venue from Kona to St. George does not minimize the prestige of the world championships, which are taking place for the first time since 2019.
“Of course Kona is something very historic, unique and something great that we have in triathlon,” he said. “But I think when we’re finally back, with a world championship, we’ll have to embrace racing.”
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