Sebastian Kienle will contest his last Ironman in Hawaii this weekend. The triathlete won the title in 2014. At his ninth participation, he expects a special goal moment.
It will be a very special race for Kienle next weekend (Saturday, from 18:25 CET, in the live ticker at sportschau.de). In 2012 he started in Hawaii for the first time at the Ironman World Championship. He has been on each of the three podium places at least once. In 2014 he achieved his masterpiece.
In 2022 he will be back, at the age of 38 on his long farewell tour. “I can now tackle it quite freely,” says Kienle in an interview with the German Press Agency. But he doesn’t find it all that nice.
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 that with certain ulterior motives. With such a relatively long farewell tour, you can increasingly come to terms with the fact that it’s over after that. I hope that the body will hold out and that I can still do a few good races next year.
They are seen as athletes with clear thoughts and strong character. What has influenced you the most in life so far?
Kienle: Looking back, one has to say very clearly that my childhood had the greatest impact on me. I was just incredibly lucky 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.
Inhow far is an Ironman race something like compressed life experience: highs that shouldn’t tempt you to get cocky and lows that shouldn’t stop you?
Kienle: I think that’s true. If you compare it to a 100 meter run, there aren’t really any 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 the low came. I fought my way out of it back then, but ultimately I had to give up. What you still learn: There is always a new opportunity, it can also be outside of sport. And there’s just no point digging and dwelling on the past. Admittedly, that’s incredibly difficult for me.
I can therefore understand it very well when someone has difficulties ticking off defeats. I can still put myself emotionally into the races that didn’t go that way. I usually ticked off victories quickly.
You once talked about fear of failure and that it drove you both in your physics studies and is a motor in triathlon races. Can you now approach your last Ironman World Championship more freely?
Kienle: Yes, I can do this quite freely now. Actually, that’s not nice either, because it means I’m definitely not in the top favorite position here. But I also think it’s not that wrong. The expectations are already significantly lower, although I would also say that I am not completely without a chance. My goal is to show that I can still play at the front. There have never been so many athletes who could be said to have a chance to win the race. I’m still one of them, even if my chance is somewhere around five percent. Getting in the top ten would be a win.
What will be the moment on October 8, 2022 that will most likely touch you emotionally?
Kienle: The question is difficult to answer. I can only really say that after the race. But I’m guessing that it will be the moment of crossing the finish line when my family will be there. This has the potential for an emotional climax. It’s just nice that my son, who is a little over a year old, can experience this. Even if he probably won’t remember it later.
Who thanks you the most that after this year you only do something like an exhibition season and then it’s all over: your wife and your little son, your body, which is always plagued by injuries, or yourself?
Kienle: Next season will be my last season, but I can try again to do as many races as well as possible. Especially the ones I haven’t been able to start with 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 meet your own expectations. On the other hand, the lifestyle as a professional athlete has very good sides, especially in triathlon. It’s just the right amount of recognition and you get to see a lot of the world. That will be missing.
In a podcast for your sponsor you said that with a degree in physics you could do anything from financial programmer to chancellor. In which direction can you go after your career, also given that you are very committed to the topic of sustainability?
Kienle: I have so many ideas that I’ll end up making a little bit of everything. But the family will come first. Otherwise, there are already one or the other way I could 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 not becoming a financial programmer, but a carpenter. Combat the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. That would be something.
Sebastian Kienle is 38 years old, married and the father of a boy. He has been one of the world’s best triathletes for many years. In 2014 he won the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. Kienle celebrated further great successes in the half-distance. This year will be his final race as a pro in Kailua-Kona. At the end of 2023 he wants to stop completely.