Swedes sweep Ironman
LAKE PLACID — On a day that started out dark and rainy, it ended with a bright blue sky and lots of smiles for two Swedes.
Rasmus Svenningsson and Lisa Norden were the winners of the Men’s and Women’s pro division, respectively, of Ironman Lake Placid on Sunday. Svenningsson and Norden’s wins marked the first time anyone from Sweden in either division has won Ironman Lake Placid since its inception in 1999.
Even though they are both from Sweden, the two have had different journies to get to the top of Ironman Lake Placid.
For Svenningsson, he started out as a cross country and Nordic skier. Once he stopped skiing in his 20s he ultimately wanted to find another sport that was physically demanding like cross country and Nordic skiing, according to The Kona Edge, an Ironman podcast.
He started out by competing in Ironman 70.3, half the distance of the full triathlon, before qualifying for the the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii in 2018 under the men’s 25 to 29 division. He placed first in that division and 32nd overall.
“I had the best experience of my life traveling there,” Svenningsson said. “It’s a dream come true, to race as a professional.”
After winning the Ironman in Lake Placid it was announced by Ironman emcee Mike Reilly that he was going to go back to the World Championships, but as a professional. A professional is one who possess a license or status card from their respective World Triathlon member that identifies that they are a top tier athlete and can’t compete in the age group field, according to the Ironman website.
His winning time of 8 hours, 13 minutes and 25 seconds, would have been a record on the original Ironman Lake Placid course, had there not been changes to the course this year because of construction at the Olympic Speedskating Oval. Brent Mcmahon, of Canada, held the record 8:13:53 finishing time in 2017.
Even though Svenningsson dominated the course, he didn’t have the fastest swim time in the pro field, or the fastest run time. His 112-mile bike ride was where he made his move. With a bike time of 4:26:09, he had the fastest time out of anyone in the triathlon this year by almost four minutes.
He swam a time of 49:29, which was eighth fastest in his field. His run time, which he described as the hardest part, was completed in a time of 2:51:05.
“After the six to seven miles on the run, I went through like a really bad patch,” Svenningsson said. “It was so long to go and I didn’t know if I was going to run out of energy in my legs. I worked myself back and utilized my aid stations in a good way.”
After finishing off his 140.6 mile journey, Svenningsson crossed the finish line to earn his first ever first place victory in an Ironman. Arnaud Guilloux, of France, finished in second and Joe Skipper, of Great Britain, followed behind to finish in third.
“Unbelievable, it’s my first Ironman win and I’m just out of words,” Svenningsson said. “It’s been a crazy week, a lot of stress. I felt confident all week. It was a super hard day, I pushed hard from the start of the swim to basically all the way to finish, I’m so happy that I held it all together.”
Unlike Svenningsson, Lisa Norden was always a triathlete.
Norden won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics in triathlon. But this was her first ever full Ironman triathlon. She has competed in Ironman 70.3, too.
“They are two very different experiences,” Norden told Reilly in an interview after the race. “For me, Ironman is something that I have always wanted to do, and my first coach told me I could do that when I am old and slow. Of course, the Olympics is something super special, but for me as an athlete to step into a race competitive at this level, feels like a huge accomplishment.”
Her overall time of 9:11:26 was more than seven minutes faster than the rest of the women’s professional field.
Much like Svenningsson, Norden was able to control the race through her bike ride. Her biking ability does not come as a shock as he has won the Swedish National Time Trial Championship in road cycling every year since 2017. She finished the bike ride with a time of 4:55:26 which was the fastest among her field.
She also said that the run was the hardest part she had to deal with.
“I’m actually surprised on the run that I could hold it together,” Norden said. “I felt really bad at the start, then I built into and finally found a rhythm.”
According to Norden, she had never run more than 28 kilometers, which is equivalent to 17.398 miles, before. So when she reached that part of the run it was like “breaking a new ground.” But she still had 8.802 miles to go after that.
“I knew I was probably going to make it towards the end but it was still so painful to get to the line,” Norden said. “This finish is really brutal with the last hill (Mill Hill).”
Norden was able to defeat two-time Ironman Lake Placid Champion in the women’s pro field, Heather Jackson of the United States. Joanna Ryter of Switzerland was able to finish in third place even after crashing during her bike ride.
It was unclear whether or not Norden has qualified for the Ironman World Championship games this year.
“I had a couple of rough years and this is my first Ironman stepping up to the long distance,” Norden said. “It is such a nice feeling to be able to execute the race the way I did today.”