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Kristian Blummenfelt may be the reigning king of triathlon (he’s nabbed an Olympic gold, a WTCS World Championship, an Ironman World Championship, and a Sub-7 Iron-distance finish, all in ten months), but his progression in the sport has been more of a slow burn than a flash in the pan. In fact, the 28-year-old Norwegian has been competing for more than a decade, and it took a solid five years of racing for his performances to really raise eyebrows in the sport. Here’s a look back at Blummenfelt’s (somewhat) humble beginnings as an athlete.
He’s had a “big engine” since he was a kid
As a young swimmer Blummenfelt began building the powerful endurance engine that would eventually shatter Ironman records, although the potential to go long remained mostly untapped until he was a teen. “Growing up, I swam and played [soccer]. I had a big engine from swimming, but played goalkeeper so it wasn’t like I got to use my endurance on the football field,” he said. After hitting a performance plateau in the pool, he toyed with the idea of getting into open water swimming before ultimately choosing triathlon. At 14, he won his first race, a local event in his hometown of Bergen. “A few months later, I was contacted by the federation and asked to be one of four kids to join the national junior team,” he said.
He was a (pretty good) runner before triathlon
In his teens, Blummenfelt also dabbled as a runner. And he was a pretty good one, too—although even his fastest times on the track back then were not indicative of just how great he’d become. Case in point? At 17, Blummenfelt ran 15:12 in the 5K on the track; fast enough to place second at the 2011 Norwegian Junior Champs. While impressive, his time would have placed him a mere 21st among all American high schoolers in the event that year. (Another comparison? His countryman and fellow 2020 Olympic gold medalist Jakob Ingebrigsten ran 13:35 as a 17-year-old and has since whittled his 5K time down to 12:48). But it’s worth noting that Blummenfelt only got speedier as a triathlete: In 2021, he posted two sub-30-minute 10Ks off the bike.
He was one of the first pro triathletes In Norway
Norway may be a triathlon powerhouse these days, but when Blummenfelt first crossed over to multisport, he was one of the only elite racers in the entire country. “It was not like the standard to join the team was super high,” Blummenfelt said of being selected to Norway’s national triathlon team. “There were no other triathletes to find.” The country, more rooted in winter sports like cross-country skiing and speed skating, did not have a single triathlete participate in the Olympics until Blummenfelt qualified in 2016, where he finished 13th. Five years later, at the Tokyo Games, Norway took three spots in the top 11 (Gustav Iden in 8th and Casper Stornes in 11th), the best collective finish by any other country.
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He’s had plenty of meh races, too
On the draft-legal World Triathlon Series circuit alone, Blummenfelt has racked up a whopping 18 career wins. But he hasn’t hit it out of the park each and every time. In his very first triathlon competing as part of the Norwegian junior elite squad at the age of 16, he placed 52nd out of 62 competitors (although, we should add, he rebounded the following season with a win in Brno in the Czech Republic in the same series). After stepping up from juniors to the elite level in 2013, Blummenfelt’s results ran lukewarm—he placed mostly in the double digits in major races—for the better part of four years until he made his first breakthrough in 2017, winning the silver medal at the Rotterdam World Triathlon Series Grand Final.
But as much as he is skilled at winning races, Blummenfelt has proved that he is just as good at rebounding from the bad ones. “I guess it’s good to get this kind of slap in the face,” he said after a disappointing tenth-place finish at Ironman 70.3 Dubai last March. “It hurts to lose and it’s awful post-race, but I’ll use it as fuel for training.” He won the Ironman World Championships just nine weeks later.