Iden on Blummenfelt: Why Gustav is Kristian’s ‘punchbag’, a rival and a friend

Gustav Iden and Kristian Blummenfelt, two boys from the town of Bergen in Norway, have dominated long-distance triathlon in the last two years. But what makes them almost unbeatable, and what makes their relationship tick?

Iden, the two-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and the current IRONMAN World Champion, sat down with Super League Triathlon for a fascinating in-depth interview about his career so far. And of course his fellow Norwegian great – and their relationship – was very much in focus.

It is now around 15 years since the pair first met as Norway’s golden generation began to take shape. It’s fair to say they had very different personalities – Blummenfelt the insanely driven competitor in everything he does, and Iden more laid-back off track.

Iden: Blummenfelt ‘all in’ from day one

Gustav said: “He [Kristian] was really all in from triathlon since day one, and I have been more, I want to say normal, and I kind of grown into the professional athlete mindset more than him, but he has been leading the way for the team, basically how to be a 24-hour athlete.

“He would take choices in the evening, like eating this piece of bread because it’s good carbs. So at a training session I was just eating because I wanted the food, but he’d look to all the choices all the time to become the best at it he could be. So that’s something that’s really been inspiring for me.”

That fierce determination to win at everything comes out even in training – Blummenfelt needs somebody to focus on, somebody to beat. And Iden just happens to be the ‘punchbag’.

“Kristian is insanely competition driven. He is like getting mad if he loses some card games, you know, and he wants someone by his side that he can beat in training or at least compete against. I don’t care too much about that. I would say I’m not your typical world champion.

“Kristian is winning, and his thing is winning. So he needs someone in training that he can beat. He says sometimes I’m not a punchable face. He wants a more punchable face in training, like a real douchebag that can say to him ‘Oh, you’re so bad, you’re swimming so ugly, you’re such a bad athlete’.

“He wants someone like, ‘I’m going to punch this guy in the face’. Sometimes I think he wishes that I was more like, ‘I’m going to kill this guy’, you know? So that’s what I bring – being a semi punchable guy.”

Gustav on Big Blu friendship

So why do these two superstars – very different in persona – mesh so well off the track too? Again, it all comes back to winning. The foundation for everything.

“It’s hard to describe, but I don’t know. We are like extremely good training partners, and I think that’s like the base foundation of the friendship,” said Iden.

“I think if I was a bad athlete and didn’t bring him anything and he didn’t bring me anything, I don’t think we necessarily would be friends as we are today.

“So it’s more like it, I wouldn’t say a professional friendship, but it’s definitely that’s where it started. Like we both can gain something from this, but it’s good to have someone by your side when you’re doing well. But we are friends also outside, but it starts like I think if we didn’t bring each other success, I don’t think this friendship would work either.

“I think to have someone as dedicated as you, it’s just refreshing, you know, to have someone who’s willing to do the same work as you do every single day. And it’s not like we are having this insanely deep conversations every day, but it’s more like to have someone by your side that’s willing to do the work.”

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Written by
Graham Shaw
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