Sebastian Kienle gives a fascinating insight into the mindset of a world championship winning athlete

Sebastian Kienle, one of long course triathlon's greatest stars, shares some interesting and insightful thoughts on the dangers of tying your self worth to your sporting performance.

Staff Reporter
Last updated -

After saying goodbye to professional triathlon last year after an incredible career, German Sebastian Kienle has continued to share his sporting wisdom in retirement.

The former IRONMAN World Champion, who recently released a book about his final season in professional triathlon, has remained active on his YouTube channel.

In his most recent video, the 39-year old highlighted the pressure top athletes put on themselves and revealed just how easy it is to tie your self worth to your sporting performance as a pro.


“I have detached myself a little further from sport”

Speaking on the topic of retirement and how he knew when it was time to step away, Kienle said that after retirement he was able to properly disconnect for the first time from high performance.

Sebastian Kienle Norseman Triathlon 2023 Finish
German great Sebastian Kienle finished second at the Norseman Triathlon in 2023 (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Zalaris Norseman).

“The things that have already changed [since retirement], is that as a professional you are always tell yourself that your life depends on how well you do in a race.

“That might not be the case at first, but you keep telling yourself that because it puts you in a position to put up with the s*** in training and do the things that you don’t enjoy, because that’s the pursuit of happiness.

“I think what has already developed in me is that I realise that my happiness or whether I can be happy or not no longer depends to the same extent on my sporting success. No matter how things will be in the future, I have realised that I have detached myself a little further from sport.”

“Respect is there either way”

For Kienle, stepping away from triathlon also helped him realise that professional sport had not only impacted his personal perception of success but also his perception of what would garner respect from others.

“I don’t want to say that I don’t care about it, but I have realized that it used to be important for me to have encouragement from the outside and to receive respect for my sporting performance.

“Now however, I realize that the respect is there either way and it’s not just there because of the sporting performance, which has been a process within myself.” 

In a sport where it can be easy to let a bad race or training session severely impact your mental wellbeing, Kienle’s message provides some valuable lessons for the mental side of professional triathlon.

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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