Nicola Spirig on Sub8: Injury report, pacing team, ‘top secret’ wetsuit

Nicola Spirig is still on course for that eagerly-awaited Sub7Sub8 bid in June, but the road to Germany is proving to be quite a rocky one for the Swiss superstar.

The 2012 Olympic gold medallist broke her collarbone and two ribs as well as suffering a punctured lung in a bike crash in early February.

Organisers have released a new video which charts Spirig’s journey towards Dresden in early June, and in it she talked immediately after the accident about the challenges her injuries would present.

Unsurprisingly for somebody who has seen it all and done it all, Nicola took everything in her stride, immediately looking for solutions to make up for the lost time.

She explained: “We discussed with the hospital what was the best way to go about it. I had surgery to fix the collarbone with a plate – that means it is quicker for an athlete because it’s more stable so we can move more quickly and train again.

“I think the biggest concern straight away is the lung – that the little hole in it is healing. If I breathe too heavily, if I do too intense training or too much training the hole will not heal.

“So this affects my training for the next few weeks – the collarbone takes about six weeks to heal before I can swim properly again.

“I will have to go two steps back instead of going step by step forward so we will have to have a lot of good ideas to keep the training up and to catch up with the volume as soon as possible.

“But I’ve had a career of 30 years – I’ve had setbacks before and for me the focus is clearly to come back to rise like a phoenix, to fight and do my best to be at the Sub8 Project and be in the best shape possible.”

Spirig reveals pacemakers

The race strategy of course will be crucial to the chances of breaking that 8-hour mark, with athletes allowed to use 10 pacers across the three disciplines.

Spirig revealed the first two names on her teamsheet, one in the swim and one on the run.

“I might only take one pacemaker for the swim leg, but it will be a really fast one, it will be a world champion in 25k open water swimming so she’s perfect in swimming of course, perfect in sighting the buoys and guiding me and giving me some draft. It will be a German swimmer and her name is Angela Maurer.”

For the run, Spirig will call on an old friend in the shape of two-time Swiss Olympian Maja Neuenschwander.

“So for the run I will use a really old mate for me, I was running with her in my first races in 1998. She was Swiss record holder in the marathon, she was at the Olympics in London in the marathon.”

Evolving wetsuit tech

The tech element of Sub7Sub8 is fascinating – with the athletes and their teams looking to optimise equipment to squeeze out every last drop of performance.

Evolving wetsuit design is just one facet of this area, with “top secret” work going on by de Boer in a bid to change the game.

Alex de Boer said: “It’s super-exciting. I’ve been designing wetsuits since 1995 and this is the crown on the work. I really really think it’s cool to see world-class athletes and Olympic Champions like Nicola and Kristian (Blummenfelt) who are in our let’s say de Boer team racing in this new wetsuit.

“We’ve put a lot of time and energy into it and I can’t wait to be at the start line or better the finish line to see if they break the times we think they can.

“I don’t want to explain too much yet, it’s something new where we can increase the propulsion on the arms. It’s top-secret because no brand ever did this and we are gonna try and test and we’re already doing some testing.”

YouTube video

What makes Nicola Spirig tick?

Now aged 40, as Nicola referenced she has been racing for three decades – yet still maintains incredible levels of elite excellence. So why is she so good? There is arguably nobody who knows her better than long-time coach Brett Sutton.

“Her attitude is second to none and I don’t just mean training hard. She’s such a controlled person in herself and she has such great self-disicipline,” he said.

“Anybody who’s had one kid will know how difficult it is, and to have three is amazing.

“I just think she’s one of those people that can control it and handle it and I don’t think that’s going to affect her.”

The way team Spirig are approaching the task in some ways is a pretty simple one – it starts with just winning the race. This is a race remember – not just a time trial.

Sutton reasoned: “I’m a racer, so I’m not really interested in the times, I’m sorry Sub8, but we’re interested in going there and being first girl.”

Spirig of course is now set to get a new opponent in early June following Thursday’s announcement that Lucy Charles-Barclay is out with a broken hip.

Organisers are working to fill that void and we will provide updates as soon as the replacement is confirmed.

Written by
Graham Shaw
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