He is the only man to have won the Olympics, the World Triathlon Championship Series, and the Ironman World Championship inside of 12 months. And then he became the first man to go under 7 hours over the full distance of triathlon. Kristian Blummenfelt is on a roll, backed by natural talent, bleeding-edge training (figuratively as well as literally), and a raging desire to win.
But he didn't just come out of nowhere; in an interview with Bahrain Victorious 13 team during the height of pandemic closures in 2020, we saw the seeds of greatness just about to put forth its buds and bloom.
Kristian's style has always been to give 100% in everything he does. He said, “When I’m on the start line, I’m standing there because I want to give everything I have to see if I can win the race. I think it’s a combination of the love of winning and also the hate of losing. It’s almost like I hate losing more than I love winning. The pain that goes through my body when I’m racing is so much smaller, less painful than the actual pain that I have to carry if I lose a race because that stays with me for days, for weeks. But the pain in the race, that’s just for a few minutes or a few hours.”
He started swimming from the age of eight, while also playing football. But a plateau in his development from the age of 11 to 13 coincided with improved running, spurring his swim coach to encourage him to use his engine elsewhere. “He gave me a list of different events, and a local triathlon was one of them. And this was back in 2008, when I was 14. So I turned up at that event and ended up winning it.”
That set him on the Olympic pathway as one of the first ever to be part of a Norwegian national triathlon team. “A few weeks later, I was contacted by one of the guys in the federation who wanted to start up a youth national team, because back then we had no national team. So he wanted to start off with a young team and build them up from youth to junior, to U23, and then senior and hopefully we would be able to be good enough to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games. So actually this journey started in 2009, 11 years ago. That’s when we started working towards the 2020 Olympic Games. So the fact that I qualified for 2016 was one Olympics earlier than what we set out to do.”
The man just does not stop, as anyone who's been privy to his training logs can see. He freely admitted, “I think the reason I ended up in the sport of triathlon is because I love to be outside, I love to be out in nature, training. So if I do more than a week with limited training, a week with 8, 9, 10 hours of training I feel so guilty, so bad. It’s awful; I just enjoy getting through the training. And also what we call off-season, I can go out for training without having any pressure. I can go for a long ride, stop, have a coffee, enjoy the sun, and then ride back again. So it’s more a social thing than just training.”
He has certainly exploited a natural lung capacity 150 percent that of a normal person because of a chest that grows outward. “When I was younger I had an X-ray, but it doesn’t distract me when concentrating in racing at all. I think it’s more the opposite, actually; it gives me more space to have a bigger and stronger heart and lungs… This is equal to having a third one in size. I think when it comes to racing it’s kind of my strength because I have the ability to breathe in a lot of air. I’ve done 300 liters of air per minute when racing, and that’s how I’m able to get around on the course and have that high VO2 Max.”
Supercharged with oxygen though he may be compared to his fellow competitors, there is one superpower he still wishes he had. “Oh, that’s flying. I’ve been dreaming so many times that I’ve been able to fly, you know, the same way I’m moving through water, if you could do that in the air, that would be sick. Swimming in the air, also known as flying, would be insane.”
He has already made a few dreams become reality through his zest for life and competition. “Ultimate goals in triathlon in general, obviously winning the Olympics and also winning Kona. I want to win a big few. But also every time I’m standing on the start line, I want to win the race. And I love to win races where I have strong competitors who actually may be the favorites and I’m in a position where I can be the underdog and just come from behind and surprise people.”
These days, PTO #1 Kristian Blummenfelt is no longer the underdog. But the same hunger to prove himself and to win drives him forward towards Kona and the Paris Olympics.
(Featured photo by Sub7Sub8 / Dani Vasquez.)