Sebastian Kienle will compete in his last Ironman in Hawaii next weekend. The triathlete from Mühlacker won the world championship title on the island in 2014. Before ending his career in 2023, he expects a special goal moment on his ninth participation.
It will be a very special race for Kienle next weekend (Saturday, from 18:25 CET). In 2012, he started for the first time in Hawaii at the Ironman World Championship. He was on each of the three podium places at least once. In 2014, he achieved his masterpiece. In 2022 he is back, at the age of 38 on his long farewell tour. “I can tackle it quite freely now,” says Kienle in an interview with the German press agency. But he doesn’t like it that much.
Almost a year ago you announced that it should be over at the end of 2023 – how does such a long farewell tour feel?
Sebastian Kienle: I did it with certain ulterior motives. With such a relatively long farewell tour, you can come to terms more and more with the fact that it’s over. I hope the body will hold up and that I can do some more good races next year.
They are seen as athletes with clear minds and strong character. What has influenced you the most in life so far?
Kienle: Looking back, one must say very clearly that my childhood had the biggest impact on me. I was just incredibly happy with my parents, with my family and now with my wife. What shapes you the most is the environment you grow up in, which gives you the freedom and opportunity to do what you love.
Ironman as a reflection of life
To what extent is an Ironman race something like compressed life experience: highs that you shouldn’t let get you down and lows that shouldn’t stop you?
Kienle: I think it is true. If you compare it to a 100 meter run, there aren’t really big ups and downs. It’s over before you can even think about it. In the Ironman you actually go through a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes you have both extremes in a single race. In 2018, for example, at the World Championships in Hawaii, I came out of the water and was almost ecstatic. Less than 10, 15 minutes later came the low point. I fought my way out of it at the time, but eventually I had to give up. What you still learn: There is always a new opportunity, it can also be outside of sports. And there is just no point in digging and dwelling on the past. Admittedly, this is incredibly difficult for me. So I can very well understand if someone has trouble marking off defeats. I can still emotionally place myself in the races that didn’t go that way. I usually ticked off wins quickly.
You once talked about fear of failure and that it drove you both in your physics studies and being a car in triathlons. Can you now approach your last Ironman World Championship more freely?
Yes, I can do it completely freely now. Actually, it’s not fun either, because it means I’m definitely not in the top favorite position here. But I also think it’s not so wrong. The expectations are already significantly lower, although I’d also say I’m not completely without a chance. My goal is to show that I can still play up front. There have never been so many athletes who can be said to have a chance to win the race. I’m still one of them, even though my odds are somewhere around five percent. Getting into the top ten would be a victory.
“I was often in a bad mood”
What will be the moment on October 8, 2022 that will most likely affect you emotionally?
Sebastian Kienle: The question is difficult to answer. I can only really say that after the race. But I’m guessing that the moment to cross the finish line will be when my family will be there. It has the potential for an emotional climax. It’s just nice that my son, who is a little over a year old, can experience it. Even though he probably won’t remember it later.
Who thanks you the most for doing something like an exhibition season after this year and then it’s all over: your wife and your little boy, your little body that’s always plagued by injuries, or yourself?
Sebastian Kienle: Next season will be my last season, but I can try again to do as many races as possible. Especially the ones I haven’t been able to start yet. At the end of the day, thanksgiving is a little bit of everything. My wife thanks me mainly because I was often in a bad mood because of the injuries. It’s just a difficult situation when you can no longer live up to your own expectations. On the other hand, the lifestyle as a professional athlete has many good sides, especially in triathlon. It’s just the right amount of recognition and you get to see a lot of the world. It will be missing.
As a carpenter against a shortage of skilled workers
In a podcast for your sponsor, you said that with a degree in physics you could do anything from financial programmer to chancellor. In what direction can you go after your career, also given that you are very dedicated to the subject of sustainability?
Sebastian Kienle: I have so many ideas that I will end up making a little bit of everything. But the family will come first. Otherwise, there is already some way I can stay connected to the sport. I just like the environment in triathlon. But then I would also like to do something that has nothing to do with sport, after it ruled my life practically 24 hours a day for 20 years. I can definitely imagine, okay, maybe I won’t become a financial programmer, but a carpenter. Combating the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. That would be something.