There’s a 100% focus on defending his Olympic title between now and July for Kristian Blummenfelt and it appears everything is currently on track, if not a little bit ahead of schedule.
The 2023 campaign saw him take on a busy race calendar which combined short course and middle distance – and he’ll end the year as the PTO’s #1 ranked male athlete again.
But there will be no PTO races – nor any above the Olympic distance – for the next eight months and he told TRI247 when we spoke to him in Neom at the Super League Championship Series finale: “Hopefully that will put me in a better position ahead of the race in Paris next year. So it’s not many more races to go and it’s definitely coming around quickly.
“It’s been good to sort of get a shock to the system in Super League and WTCS in terms of the top-end speed, the technical courses and all of those small areas like transition and just being tactically aware in stressful situations.”
‘I’m within reach’
Looking back at his short-course performances in 2023, he says there’s definitely room for improvement and feels much of that will come now that it’s all about building towards Paris.
He explained: “I was a bit sick at the start of the year but I would have preferred to do a bit better in the shorter races that I’ve done.
“I haven’t been on the podium, but I’ve sort of seen some okay results in training and I had some confirmations, like being up there in the Hamburg Super Sprint distance, which is not maybe my best one compared to Olympic distance.
“So being able to do well both in super short and just a few seconds off the pace in Super League and also being up there in long course, I feel I’m sort of within reach. But I definitely need to do some work on the run between now and Paris.
“I’ve been off the pace by around a minute in terms of 10k compared to the likes of Alex [Yee] and Hayden [Wilde, the two men who joined him on the podium in Paris], so there’s some work to do there.
“But I sort of feel it’s not like I need to reach a new level of fitness that I’ve never been at before. I just have to go, obviously a little bit better than I was in Tokyo.
“But it’s the same sort of fitness and same sort of rhythm of training as we were doing going into Tokyo. And with having only a few races before Paris, it’s really giving me time to put the foundation down and do the work in order to be dialled in for one distance.”
‘The run is going to be crucial’
In that feature, his coach Olav Aleksander Bu suggests the results of a recent treadmill test were almost historically good, with Big Blu’s maximum oxygen uptake said to be higher now than it was ahead of Tokyo – all the more impressive given that we’re now in November and in between seasons.
“We are already ahead of the route to Paris, so now we have to stabilise things. Then we’d rather lift a bit again when it gets closer,” Bu was quoted as saying and we’ve since checked that translation is accurate with the man himself – so things are very much where the camp would want them eight months out.
And when I press Blummenfelt on where he thinks he’ll have to get his 10k run to by July, he’s crystal clear.
Reflecting on his learnings from this year’s Paris Test Event, he said: “Even though I didn’t race London, it reminds me of London. In that it’s flat and on the bike we’re riding around some beautiful areas, iconic places, but the course itself doesn’t do much [to break up the race].
So it’s probably going to be a run-specific course, unless the French team is able to create something on the swim and bike.
“And as we saw at the Test Event, Alex’s run time was 29 minutes flat – and that on a course which looked to have measured a fraction long.
“So we’re looking at maybe a realistic 10k of 28 minutes and 40-something, which is like 40 seconds faster than Tokyo [Blummenfelt clocked 29:34 in Japan, Yee 29:44 and Wilde 29:52]. It will likely be easier conditions in terms of the humidity but it’s still a faster leg speed and average pace on the run than what we all did in Tokyo.
“So yeah, I think the run is going to be crucial over the next few months.”