Nicola Spirig is back in the running

By Erin Greene | 12 Feb, 2014

After that epic sprint where she beat Lisa Norden to the Olympic gold in a photo finish in Hyde Park, London 2012 Olympic Champion Nicola Spirig married long-term partner and fellow triathlete Reto Hug. Shortly after the pair announced that they were expecting their first child. Then she announced her return to sport with some very speedy track sessions at a win at the Cozumel World Cup. Here is what Spirig is up to now and where she’s headed.

How is motherhood and training going?
It has been a very big year! It was amazing to become a mother, certainly a very unique experience! Reto and I extremely enjoy spending time with Yannis and see him growing and learning something new every day! My training has also been going well. I don’t train as much as before my time as a mother, but I am using my time to train very well at the moment.

How was the process of getting back to training after giving birth?
I wasn’t in a hurry, as I thought that it didn’t matter if I would be back at a good fitness a few weeks earlier or later. But surprisingly I got back to a good level pretty quickly. The first few months were about learning how to combine being a mother and an athlete. I had to learn to be flexible. My coach and I decided what to train, Yannis decided when I trained, I organized my day around him. Now it’s a bit easier as Yannis is not as dependent on me as when I was still breastfeeding, but the fact that he is and will always be the first priority will not change. So triathlon is not as important anymore, but it is still my passion and I appreciate still being able to do it.

Do you prefer to train in a group or alone?
Definitely in a group if I like the athletes in that group! It’s much more motivating and I can push myself harder in a group. Time goes by quicker and you get to know other people.

Did you tune into the women’s circuit this year?
I did see part of the races in Kitzbühel, Hamburg and London on TV more by coincidence. My focus wasn’t on the circuit this year but it is always interesting to follow how new athletes are coming to the top and of course I know a lot of the “old” athletes and hoped for them to have a good season.

What do you have planned for the next year? Will you return to the World Triathlon Series?

My main focus will be on running. My goal is to qualify for the athletics in Europeans in Zürich in 2014. I hope to improve my running with this focus and to use it for triathlon afterwards, as the main goal is the Olympic Games in Rio. I will also try to do some World Cups in 2014, but certainly not the whole World Triathlon Series, as it includes a lot of travelling and I enjoy having more time at home with my family at the moment.

How did winning the Olympic gold change life for you?
In Switzerland, there have only been four women to win Olympic gold at the summer Olympics - ever! So to be one of those four is very special. I’m not a triathlete anymore but an Olympic Champion, so a lot more people know me in Switzerland now. Personally I was able to fulfill one of my biggest dreams and goals and I feel very happy about that. I don’t feel any pressure anymore to achieve things in triathlon, I just feel lucky to be able to still do triathlon on a high level and take on some challenges that I always wanted to while also concentrating on other things in life like my family.

I do hope that I can inspire and motivate other people with my gold medal. I am thinking of using the Olympic title to motivate kids to do sports even more than I already do, for example to create a kid’s race series. It would be nice to know that this gold medal has a major impact not just on me, but on a lot of other people, especially kids!

When you were growing up, who inspired you in triathlon?
As both my parents were sports teachers, I had the chance to try out a lot of different sports when I was a kid. But my sister was on the swim squad and my brother ran a bit, my father and uncle did some triathlons, it was clear that I had to try out this sport as well and I liked it immediately! I was fascinated by the three different disciplines.

What is your favorite triathlon memory?
I think winning gold at the Olympics is so special, so huge, and to stand at the top of the podium while hearing the Swiss national anthem there so emotional. It will always be one of the most amazing and favorite triathlon memories ever for me –especially of course as the sprint finish was so close!! Otherwise I have lots of good memories spending time with other athletes I have known for years and had great times with.

What did triathlon teach you about life in general?
Sports and trying to be the best triathlete in the world taught me a lot for general life! You need many skills to reach your goal in sports that are also important in life in general. I had to put in a lot of work and sweat to reach my goal, had to be very persistent, not give up over years but stay focused, handle down times like injuries, get over hurdles and do everything to reach my dream. Whatever goal people have in normal life, they will need a lot of those same skills. So I can use all those for my life outside of sports as well.