Six top pros unveil the bodies that propelled them to Olympic medals and world championships.


Six top pros unveil the bodies that propelled them to Olympic medals and world championships.

Photographs by Scott Draper.

This article was originally published in the Sep./Oct. 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.

The rules for winning a triathlon are pretty straightforward, but athletes use their bodies to swim, bike and run to victory in a variety of ways. We asked some of the best on the planet—world champions and Olympic medalists—to reveal the bodies they’ve relied on for their performances, and the differences are staggering. As Sebastian Kienle puts it, “It’s not how it looks from the outside, but how it works from the inside.” And these six bodies simply work.

Leanda Cave

2012 Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Champion

“I don’t have this vision in my head of me being a machine when I’m racing. … When I’m racing, I feel like I’m dancing. I see myself as floating across the floor and being as effortless as I can be, and as efficient as I can be.”

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Craig Alexander

Three-time Ironman World Champion

“I remember in 2008, a few people commented about five weeks before the race in Hawaii [the first of his three Kona wins] how lean I looked, so I started having a beer or two every night with dinner, just more calories, supplement the calorie intake. When I’m in heavy training, I always supplement the calories between meals with protein shakes, trying to get good calories in. I’m not really jumping on the scales. But my wife will often say—she can tell when I’m ready to race. My cheek bones or something become more pronounced, I get drawn in in the face. But I really don’t pay attention to that. For me, it’s about getting up every day and doing the work that I need to do.”

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Erin Densham

2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist

“I know at the moment I am so far from being in peak shape that it’s almost not funny. … I could go out and race, I guess. But to be in a position to race and win or to be competitive is a completely different thing [than] just participating. I know I would do well, but I wouldn’t be at my best. And I want to go out there, and I want to be able to win, and I want to strive to win. … I’m a long way from that, so I’ve had to sort of readjust my program a little bit.”

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Javier Gomez

2012 Olympic Silver Medalist

“I like to work on drills and lots of technique, specific exercises that help you to run better, of course, but also to prevent injuries and have stronger ankles, knees, and for the hip. It’s very important, especially in a sport like triathlon, which is pretty aggressive. Running off the bike [requires] a strong body.”

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Sebastian Kienle

Two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion

“I just started to do more strength training for the swim because we realized that it’s actually one of my weak spots. Sometimes the muscles you see are not the ones that are bringing a lot of power. It’s interesting that it’s that way. Like when you see body builders [with] huge muscles. But I don’t think that they could swim 2,000 meters faster than me. So it’s not how it looks from the outside, but it’s how it works from the inside.”

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Mirinda Carfrae

Two-time Ironman World Champion

“Coming from basketball, I carried a little bit more fat and a bit more muscle bulk. Olympic-distance racing, my body didn’t change a whole lot, I maybe dropped a little bit of muscle. And then the longer I’ve gone [in triathlon] it seemed [the more] my muscles have become really lean. So anything that was not 100 percent needed just seems to have been gotten rid of. I feel like the more Ironmans I do, the leaner I’ve become, and it’s become kind of a battle to sort of keep the weight on throughout the year. Ironman really seems to just strip you down to bones and only the muscle bulk that’s absolutely necessary to get you through the race.”

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