Interview: Kaisa Lehtonen Ironman South Africa winner

Viva Blue Carlos Lopez
Hotel Viva Blue sponsorizes the PRO Triathlete Carlos López
15 April, 2016

Interview: Kaisa Lehtonen Ironman South Africa winner

Congrats to this impressive victory. Obviously you did not belong to the main favorites before the race but then you showed everybody that this was a mistake – and that the decision to switch to long distance was not so bad after all. What does the victory mean to you after several setbacks in your career?

Thanks. The victory is a huge thing for me. I’ve been dreaming about becoming a tough IronWoman since a little girl and now I won a Championship race and I’m going to Kona…There are big emotions going in my mind right now. That’s all amazing!

The race in South Africa was not only hard because of the strong competitors and the weather conditions but also because of an incident during the swim. What happened exactly?

A jelly fish stuck to my hand. The burning sensation was quite awkward but the worse thing was that my whole arm got totally swollen during the bike ride. I was quite afraid that I be in serious trouble if the swelling would continue but luckily it settled down.

Is this what you call SISU?

Yeah definitely! Anyway I think every iron distance race is a huge adventure and there are always some difficulties but you just have to learn to handle those situations and see what your body can do. The SISU helps a lot in doing that! [Editor’s note: SISU is a Finnish term that means resilience, perseverance and hardiness especially in difficult situations.]

In 2014 you changed from Olympic distance racing to long-distance racing. Why?

Actually in the beginning of 2015 I was still training for the Olympic distance and my aim was to try to qualify to Rio. But I had to withdraw from the European Games in Baku due to knee injury. After this I started to think what I really want to do with my sports career… I closed my eyes and felt that my heart is beating for the long distance. After this all the training I did is planned for the Ironman.

Numerous top long-distance athletes are former short-course athletes. Do you consider this as an advantage?

Yes, I think there is some advantage as the short distance races gives you the speed and teach you to race hard. Short distance athletes are also good swimmers, even if this always was my “weakest discipline” in ITU races. The overall level in swimming is getting better and better also in long distance racing and I believe that in future the ability of being able to swim in the front pack will be more and more important also in long distances if you really want to win the race. And when you look at the development of the last years you can transfer this phenomenon to other disciplines, too.

For the first time you are now member of a professional triathlon team. What was the reason to join TEAM SPORT FOR GOOD?

The team is a huge opportunity. I’ve been quite alone in Finland and having a team of other pro triathletes around gives me great support in many ways considering the training, racing or financial side of things. The team is also one of the factors that makes me “a real” pro athlete for the first time in my career.

Becoming member of TEAM SPORT FOR GOOD does also mean personal commitment in terms of supporting the Laureus mission. What is your motivation for your personal engagement and do you already have any concrete plans how to support the foundation?

Laureus is a valuable thing for me. It’s so great to be able to do something good to the world around as we triathletes are quite privileged and for me it’s very important to give something back. We’ve been planning some Laureus things in Finland and it’s now the time to implement them together with the team and the foundation.

You have been passionate about triathlon since you are a teenager. There is a crazy story about your efforts to go for it. Please tell us more.

When I was 12 years old my father told me about triathlon and I immediately wanted to try it! Of course I wasn’t allowed to try the whole thing but I got promise for the biking segment. So on one beautiful day I went out with my pink little mountain bike and in the same evening I arrived at my grand mothers house. I had biked the whole 180 km and I knew in my heart that triathlon is something that will give a lot of joy in my life and I want to become as good an IronWoman as possible.

You have a „Master of Human Nutrition“. Do you profit from this education in your daily training and during races?

Proper nutrition is very important and having the knowledge about it gives me a big advantage. Anyway my daily nutrition may not seem so special but I pay very much attention in to the quality of food I eat and the timing of my meals. I can also work with sports nutrition product development with manufactures which creates one more interesting aspect to my career as a pro triathlete.

You always drink beetroot juice before your races. Why?

During the past years there have emerged quite many studies that show that beetroot juice may give a boost for endurance in many ways. Of course it’s not clear how big this advantage may be and it’s not even totally clear if it even exists but I did use beetroot juice a few years ago before one race and it went really well so since that I haven’t “deared” to race without drinking it.

Kaisa Lehtonen hotel viva blue mallorca

Kaisa Lehtonen hotel viva blue mallorca

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