German triathlon royalty Sebastian Kienle, born in July 1984 in the town of Mühlacker, holds a number of world championship medals to his name over the IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN distances.
Exposed to the sport at just eight years of age, Kienle soon entered the world of triathlon – competing in his first race at the tender age of 12.
‘Sebi’ describes himself as a fanatic of the sport who leaves nothing to chance. An almost unrivalled work ethic, coupled with a stringent attention to detail, has turned Kienle into one of the sport’s all-time greats – with few able to rival the honours amassed on his resume.
Success at back-to-back IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship events in 2012 and 2013 – both in Las Vegas, Nevada – announced Kienle’s arrival on the world stage. A staggering bike leg in 2012 – more than five minutes quicker than his nearest rival – secured victory and a course record in 2012. He repeated the feat with an even better all-round display in 2013.
After securing bronze in Kona the same year, Sebastian targeted IRONMAN World Championship success in 2014. He took victory in a time of 8:14:18 – again showcasing his cycling prowess with a bike split of 4:20:46 – more than 10 minutes quicker than the rest of the top 10 finishers.
In total, Kienle has amassed eight world championship podium finishes – three gold, three silver and two bronze – and he also represented Team Europe in the inaugural PTO Collins Cup in 2021.
Career record and results
The vast majority of Sebi’s career success has come over the middle and long distances, a format which favours his ‘on land’ strength. As a weaker swimmer (relatively speaking), the Kienle charge through the field on the bike, making up any swim deficit, has been one of the most consistently impressive things to watch during his incredible racing career.
While international success has come at those longer distances, Kienle is also proud to be the unofficial “King of Buschhuetten”, a title earned through five consecutive victories at the classic Triathlon Buschhuetten – a regular shorter distance season opener on the German domestic calendar.
A maiden IRONMAN 70.3 podium in Switzerland in 2008 began his remarkable venture over the middle-distance. Then 2009 brought wins at Challenge Kraichgau and IRONMAN 70.3 Wiesbaden.
Back-to-back second-place finishes at Challenge Roth in 2010 and 2011 (both in under eight hours) were coupled with an IRONMAN 70.3 Miami title and a sixth-place finish at IRONMAN Arizona to close out his 2011 season.
World Championship glory awaited Sebastian in 2012 as he earned the first of those successive victories at the 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas.
2014 was a breakthrough year over the full distance for Kienle, winning both the IRONMAN European – which he repeated in 2016 and 2017 – and IRONMAN World Championship. Further 70.3 wins at Kraichgau (2015) and Chattanooga (2016) followed for the German as did silver medals at the 70.3 World Championship in 2015 and 2016.
Having won the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt three times, Kienle returned to Challenge Roth in 2018 (the scene of his full-distance debut eight years earlier), and added another iconic race victory to his stellar record.
Kienle at Kona
Sebi’s first trip to the ‘Big Island’ for the IRONMAN World Championship came in 2012, when his chances of a podium debut were curtailed by a technical fault on the bike which slowed him down. Even with the malfunction he recorded the fastest bike split at the event and would eventually finish fourth.
A year later, Kienle returned and moved one step closer to achieving his ultimate goal, that IRONMAN World Championship title. After exiting the water over three minutes behind eventual winner Frederik Van Lierde and a plethora of other top names, Kienle produced on the bike to put himself back into contention. He would finish third, four minutes down on silver medal winner Luke McKenzie (AUS).
In 2014 Kienle found himself in a familiar position after the swim – down by about three minutes from the leaders. He found another gear on the bike though, outpacing the vast majority of the field by over 10 minutes and taking a stranglehold on the race. A 2:54:36 marathon closed the deal for the German, who took victory by over five minutes in a time of 8:14:18.
After an eighth-place finish in 2015 – well off the pace in the final run – Sebi returned to form in 2016 to earn a silver medal behind fellow German great Jan Frodeno. Some 4:25 down after the swim, Kienle overtook his compatriot on the bike and led by 40 seconds heading into T2. However, Sebi was unable to hold off Frodeno – who took victory by 3:32.
A fourth-place finish in 2017 was followed by a second bronze in 2019 when a record-breaking Frodeno again claimed victory.
In 2022, Kienle raced at Kona for the final time as a professional, sharing before the race that 2023 would be a retirement tour for the esteemed German. On the Big Island, he posted a remarkable 7:55 split, which on the day was only good enough for sixth, despite being his fastest ever time on the course.
Sebastian Kienle and family
Sebastian is the son of Nina and Xaver Kienle and has a sister, Luisa. His father introduced him to the world of triathlon at eight years old – taking him to watch his first event. Four years later, Sebastian was competing in his own first race.
“My parents never pushed me to win races. They always guided me, but the enthusiasm to succeed was solely mine,” he said after his 2014 IRONMAN World Championship victory.
Sebastian married Christine Schleifer in 2015, and the pair welcome their first child – a son – into the world in July 2021.
Sebastian Kienle gear
On the swim leg, Sebi wears the Orca brand of wetsuits and swimskins. You’ll also see Kienle wearing a custom Dream Kona Aero Race Suit from the same brand, which is optimised for hydrodynamics and aerodynamics.
A long-time partner of the brand, Kienle rides the range-topping the Scott Plasma 6 bike. That is paired with the finest components from SRAM and Zipp wheels.
Sebastian is further supported by some of the biggest names in the sport including Red Bull, New Balance, Oakley and Zwift.