“So I thought I was ready for everything on race day, but for me, race day never came.”
The pain was clear in the the voice of Gustav Iden as he reflected on that heartbreaking withdrawal from the recent IRONMAN World Championship in St George.
The 26-year-old from Bergen arrived in Utah at the peak of his powers – a two-time 70.3 World Champion, the PTO World #1 and the favourite to add the crown at full distance to his growing resume.
Then the world caved in for Gustav as he was laid low by a respiratory infection which resulted in him having to withdraw from the race just 24 hours before the start.
To add to the pain of missing out, Iden then had to watch from the sidelines as good friend and training partner Kristian Blummenfelt carried off the sport’s biggest prize.
High to low
Gustav opened up about how things transpired in St George in a new video produced in conjunction with Giant Bicycles, and in it he gave the inside track about his withdrawal.
“So I thought I was ready for everything on race day, but for me, race day never came,” he explained.
“I had to pull out before the fun even started and I’m really, really disappointed.”
When Gustav arrived in Utah to begin final preparations for the race, everything appeared to be on track.
“The lead-up was going really well. I came from the altitude in Sierra Nevada over to the U.S. and was feeling great – had some really good sessions.”
Then though, as the clock counted down towards race week, things took a nasty turn for the worse.
“I had a slight niggle in my knee, not too bad, I wasn’t too worried but I was kind of worried still. Then I first got a bit tired and I noticed more and more symptoms in my nose and throat. Then the fever started and the cold sweats and the bad sleep.
“I had to go to the doctor and did some blood works. The doctor could tell right away that it was a known issue in the area actually – he had treated over 100 people in the last month with the same symptoms as me.
“It was the race week so I didn’t want to take any unknown medication going into the race. So I took some humidifiers and those type of things but they didn’t really help.”
Even the day before the race, Gustav was hopeful of making the start line to take on Blummenfelt and the rest of the assembled stars. But he would not get the message he wanted from back home in Norway.
“I was optimistic right to the very end. When I spoke to my doctor back home, and she saw the ECG tests and the blood work, she didn’t want to give me the green light for race day. She basically said she doesn’t want to be the one responsible for me collapsing on race day. So I never got the opportunity to show what I was capable of.”
Iden knows for sure the decision in the end was the correct one, despite the pain he felt at having to watch as Blummenfelt claimed the ultimate glory.
“Obviously super-disappointed, but health comes first and even though I want nothing more than to race, I realise it was the right decision. It was still really painful to watch from the sidelines.”
Iden will defend his 70.3 World Championship back in St George in October, and before that there is hope he might make his first IRONMAN World Championship bid at Kona. What happened earlier this month, if anything, just adds further motivation.
“The future holds more world titles. I’m not giving up, I’m ready to fight for another title and it is possible. [Kristian] was impressive but my level is also impressive so I should be there on a normal day.”