Ping pong with Chris Froome and living for performance – what makes Gustav Iden tick

Gustav Iden is quite at home winning the biggest triathlon races in the world, and basking in the spotlight that goes with it. But that’s not all that makes the Norwegian great tick.

The brilliant 27-year-old from Bergen has carried just about all before him in the past few years, winning two IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships as well as the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.

Iden and his Norwegian team-mate Kristian Blummenfelt are part of a golden generation of athletes from the Scandinavian country who are rewriting the sport’s record books. Over all distances.

While his engaging personality and refreshing confidence has seen him become a huge household name, Iden is just as happy flying solo in the mountains of Sierra Nevada, at one with his desire for elite performance.

Iden on the desire for perfect performance

Speaking ahead of last month’s Arena Games in London, he told Super League Triathlon: “I do live for performance. But for me, performance is – of course winning big races is super special and you get so much attention and good things around it.

“But I can also have almost the same feeling on a good training day. If I nail a good swim session, I really feel this is really going somewhere, I can have the same feeling without like the fame and the media attention around it.

“So for me it’s performance driven by performance sake and not the attention around it.”

The solitude that Sierra Nevada brings is something Iden embraces, but it also has a few very nice spin-offs too. Notably playing ping pong with some other sporting legends.

Gustav revealed: “I do enjoy the spotlight. I do feel like triathlon needs some personality, but it’s also nice to be alone in the mountains, so now I’ve been training in Sierra Nevada and it’s no people up there except athletes – playing ping pong with Chris Froome and of course yeah beating him. Just hanging around with these world-class athletes and training in altitude, that’s where my real love of sport comes. And of course on race day to perform.

“I’m glad triathlon is not a big enough sport that you actually have to have all this media training and everything. It’s relaxing to just have a sport where you can train by yourself.”

Iden vs Chris Froome, who wins?

So, when four-time Tour de France winner meets IRONMAN World Champion across a ping pong table, who prevails? No prizes for guessing…

“I would say I’m better than average, and Chris Froome was also decent but yeah, we beat him. And Kristian also beat him but Kristian was beaten by me, so it’s a tournament coming up out there now. So I’m a bit sad to be in London because it was a big tournament yesterday and Kristian lost like a full crate of Red Bulls I think.”

While Iden and Froome have connected from a ping pong perspective, as yet they haven’t found a way to make cycling work.

The issue with cyclists is they train like 11 in the morning but we have three sessions to do a day so it’s hard to figure out a way to do it together,” said Iden.

“But hopefully we’ll have at least one ride together.”

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Written by
Graham Shaw
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