Nicola Spirig Profile
Born in February 1982, Nicola Spirig remains one of the top performers on the world stage through her three decades of competing at an elite level. Few have showcased the longevity and talent the Swiss ‘Superfrau’ has done over her illustrious career.
An Olympic Champion, a seven-time European Champion and perennial podium dweller, Nicola grew up in the Swiss town of Winkel in the area of Bulach in the north of the country. She competed in her first triathlon in 1992 – winning all but one of her races during her school years before heading on to the international scene in the latter part of the 1990s.
A decorated Olympian, Nicola has competed on the grandest stage on five occasions. She lifted the 2012 London Olympic title and finished runner-up in Rio in 2016. More on that later…
On the World Triathlon circuit, Nicola has more than 20 titles to her name at senior level and has won a host of IRONMAN 70.3 and Challenge Family middle-distance races over the past decade. She has raced one full-distance event to date – IRONMAN Cozumel 2014 – and she won that too. Hers is a story of excellence over every distance and format.
Career record and results
Nicola’s career began in the last Millennium and she competed on the ETU Junior circuit before making her senior debut at the 1999 ETU European Cup Thiersee event – taking victory by more than five-and-a-half minutes – all while still in the Junior ranks,
A championship performer from the start, Spirig claimed Junior European Championship gold during 1999 in both triathlon and duathlon. From there, she stepped up to World Championship Junior level with gold in duathlon (2000) and triathlon (2001).
Further world success arrived with the U23 ITU World Duathlon title secured in 2003, before Nicola transitioned to the senior professional ranks full-time. After a top-20 finish at the Athens Olympics of 2004, Nicola continued her progression to greatness.
2007 was a breakthrough year for Spirig as she recorded three podium finishes – third at the Copenhagen ETU Triathlon European Championships, second at the ITU European Cup event in Geneva and victory at the BG Triathlon Eilat World Cup event. She also took victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Rapperswil that same year.
European Championship titles followed in 2009 and 2010 before Nicola secured the ultimate prize – a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games. She claimed the European title for the third time that same year and won the prestigious Sportswoman of the Year award in Switzerland.
Further European Championship success followed with victories in 2014, 2015 and 2018, while sandwiched in between was a silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Nicola Spirig at the Olympics
Few names in triathlon are as synonymous with the Olympic Games as much as Nicola Spirig. The Swiss superstar has competed in five Games to date, with her first appearance coming in Athens 2004.
Nicola finished 19th in Greece – in part due to an excellent bike leg – before improving to finish sixth four years later in Beijing, again shining on the bike with the fastest split.
In London 2012, Spirig took top honours after a thrilling battle with Sweden’s Lisa Norden and Australia’s Erin Densham saw the top three stuck together for the entire race. The trio were separated by one second after the swim, one second after the bike and finally by inches at the finish line. The pair both finished in a time of 1:59:48 with Nicola taking victory via a photo-finish.
Spirig’s hopes of an Olympic double were dashed in Rio de Janeiro as she was outrun by American Gwen Jorgensen. Much like in London, the top three could not be split on the swim and bike – they were within a second of each other. Jorgensen though managed to gap Spirig by 40 seconds on the final discipline. Silver was the consolation prize for the Swiss great.
The sport’s most decorated female Olympian was on the start line once again in 2021 at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games. The now 39-year-old was unable to keep pace with the electric trio of Flora Duffy, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Katie Zaferes, but she did finish a highly respectable sixth.
Going for Sub8
Spirig is one of a quartet of triathletes (the others are Alistair Brownlee, Kristian Blummenfelt and Lucy Charles-Barclay) who announced in January 2021 that they would be attempting to break the Sub7 and Sub8 barriers for a full-distance triathlon
The event is being staged in partnership with the Pho3nix Foundation – a non-profit organisation created with the sole purpose of promoting physical activity as a way to improve health and wellbeing among children, with a particular focus on those in disadvantaged situations.
The date for the event is yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to be held during the summer of 2022 – a big year for triathlon with two IRONMAN World Championship events in St George and Kona, an IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship (again in St George) and the second hosting of the PTO’s Collins Cup team event.
Nicola Spirig and family
Nicola is the youngest of three siblings – she has a sister Katherin and a brother Thomas. Their parents Ursula and Sepp were both sports teachers and sport played an early role in Nicola’s upbringing. Her father, in fact, was one of her early triathlon coaches with her mother managing her career.
Nicola married former professional triathlete Reto Hug at the end of the 2012 season and the pair now have three children – two sons and a daughter. Nicola and Reto have hosted a series of children’s triathlons in Switzerland since 2014 as part of her Foundation.
Outside of the world of triathlon, Nicola graduated with a degree in law in 2010.
Nicola Spirig gear
In the water, Nicola is working with Deboer to produce a new wetsuit specifically designed to help in her attempt to break the 8-hour full distance barrier. “With my feedback, and the knowledge and experience from Deboer, we will develop the fastest possible suit to break 8-hours,” she said.
Gaz Energie, Ochsner Sport, Raiffeisen and Land Rover are among the main sponsors of the Swiss superstar, who works with bike specialist Specialized when it comes to the cycling aspect of the sport.
Footwear wise, On Running is her shoe of choice. She trains in the Cloudstratus, races in the Cloudboom Echo and recovers in the Cloud per the brand’s official website.