As Gustav Iden hoisted the finisher’s tape above his head at the 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France last Sunday, thousands of triathlon fans undoubtedly took to Google to find out more about this under-the-radar Norweigan. While Iden’s name may be new to the long-distance scene, he’s no stranger to triathlon, and is one of Norway’s best hopes for Olympic gold in 2020. Here’s more about this newly-minted world champ.
He’s the youngest 70.3 world champion ever.
At 23 and four months old, Iden stamped his name in the record books as the youngest male pro to win worlds at the distance, just eclipsing New Zealand’s Terrenzo Bozzone’s win at the 2008 world championship at the age of 23 years, seven months.
He’s a short-course specialist.
Currently ranked 10th in the world on the International Triathlon Union (ITU)’s circuit, Iden has been racing the draft-legal, Olympic distance format since 2016–and as a junior since 2012. Just one week before the 70.3 champs, Iden finished fourth at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland, a race won by countryman Kristian Blummenfelt. He also finished fourth at the ITU Olympic test event in Tokyo on August 16, a promising sign for making the Norweigan Olympic squad in 2020.
He’s won at 70.3 before.
Gustav’s prowess at the half-Ironman distance comes at somewhat of a surprise given that most of his races have been less than two hours long. In fact, he had only tackled the 70.3 distance twice prior to 70.3 Worlds, although impressively so: As a 20-year-old 70.3 rookie, he won on home turf in Haugesund, Norway. And last December, Iden placed second behind Blummenfelt in Bahrain with a time of 3:28:25, which included a blazing run split of 1:07:13.
He got his start as a cyclist.
On Nice’s grueling and technical bike course, Iden refused to relent to Alistair Brownlee and Rudy Von Berg, both far more experienced bikers at the 70.3 distance. (Incidentally, Iden was the only pro in Nice not racing on a TT bike, opting to use his road bike with clip-on aero bars). So it’s no surprise that Iden built his athletic foundation as a cyclist, which he took on competitively at the age of 10. Though initially intent on one day racing the Tour de France, Iden shifted gears to triathlon as a 14-year-old when Norway’s Triathlon Federation picked up on his potential and invited him to a training camp in 2010. At the advice of the coaches at the camp, he joined a swim team. He was selected to Norway’s junior national triathlon team one year later.
His talent runs (and bikes and swims) in the family.
Iden’s brother, Mikal, 25, is also a standout triathlete. In August, the older Iden won Ironman Tallinn in Estonia, with a finish time of 8:19:54.
He’s focusing on the Olympics before going long.
Although Iden recently mused that his ultimate season would entail winning Olympic gold and landing on the top step at Kona, he has affirmed that he has no plans to go long until after this Olympic cycle. After Sunday’s race, Iden told press that he was first and foremost focusing on Tokyo, and then he’ll “try really, really hard to win in Kona one day.”