One of the greatest triathletes of all time, Nicola Spirig, is preparing to retire from the ‘intense emotions’ of her racing career

Old habits can die hard, but 40-year-old Spirig knows it’s time for a change.

She has three children aged nine, five and three, and is looking forward to more family time and a break from her entire training schedule.

She says her new routine will include an hour of exercise every morning instead of the three daily sessions of swimming, cycling and running that she has become used to.

“Being a professional athlete also means I have to train every day,” Spirig says. “There are no weekends, no holidays, I’m always training… always ready to work hard.”

If the start of her final season is anything to go by, Sprigg, a two-time Olympic medalist and six-time European champion, will not quietly end her professional triathlon career.

Earlier this year, a serious bike accident threatened to derail his season as he suffered three broken ribs, a fractured collarbone, and a punctured lung.

This happened a few months ago when Spirig was scheduled to take part in the Phoenix Sub8 Project, a team-backed challenge in which two women – Spirig and British triathlete Katrina Matthews – attempted to complete a full-distance triathlon – 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run—the first time in less than eight hours.

Remarkably, despite injuries sustained in a bike accident, Spirig completed the challenge in seven hours, 34 minutes and 19 seconds on June 5 at the Lausitzring race track in Germany, three minutes behind Mathews.

“The accident happened in February … I wasn’t allowed to breathe, which means I couldn’t train properly,” Spirig says.

“I was about 12 weeks short of training that I should have been doing, but still the last few weeks before the Sub 8 project went really well and I could see how fitness came about. That’s how I got stronger and faster. And I will say I did my 100% best out of the situation.”

Sprigg crosses the finish line in Germany at the end of the Phoenix Sub8 project.

Unlike a typical triathlon, for the Sub8 project with the Spirig was a team of 10 pacemakers along with a team of 10 pacemakers to create conditions for faster times – exclusively on bikes.

The challenge, and the making of it, is part of Nikola’s Spirit —A short film, released earlier this month, provides insight into Spirig’s long, decorated career in triathlon.

The Swiss star first took up the sport at the age of 10 and has competed in more Olympics – five – than any other triathlete, winning gold at London 2012 and silver at Rio 2016. This was at a time when triathlon was relatively new. The sport made its debut in the Olympic program in 2000.

“I was a very good junior and I was beating some Swiss athletes going to the Olympics in Sydney (in 2000), so I thought it might be possible to go to the Olympics next time,” Spirig says.

“That was when my personal Olympic dream really began. But it was never on my mind to go five times and actually be an Olympic champion and win another medal.

“I thought I’d stop long ago. I did my studies – I’m a lawyer, so I thought after the second Olympics my life as a lawyer would be more or less normal.”

But even now that Spirig is at the end of her career having competed in more than 120 world triathlon events, her love for the sport still shines as brightly as she ever has.

“The most important thing is the passion for it — I still love it,” she says.

“On the one hand, I like to train, walk, be active; it just makes me feel good. And on the other hand, I love challenges and running and seeing where my limits are and how far I can go, How fast can I go?”

Sprigg competes in the women's triathlon at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Beyond medals and podium finishes – of which there have been many – Spierig has taken a lot out of her career in triathlons – even drawing on her racing experience when she was training to be a lawyer. did.

“I had my final exam and everyone was very scared and worried,” she recalls. “I just said, well, I’ve had pressure before. I know how to deal with pressure because I have all the time in a race and I know how to work towards the goal – how to be efficient, How to plan

“It wasn’t training sessions, it was study sessions. For me, it was kind of easy because I learned it all in the game and I could apply it to my studies.”

Sports, she says, “help you deal with the real problems in life.” But there have been times when life has helped Spirig deal with his approach to the game.

It also includes how his attitude toward training changed after having children – a time when recovery became non-existent and sometimes amounted to playing with Lego.

“After a bad session, for example, before I had the baby I was thinking about it for days and thinking in my mind why it was a bad session and what I could have done differently,” says Spirig. it is said.

“And now is not the time. I see that there are more important things in life that not a single bad training session is worth bothering about.”

Spirig, whose husband, Reto Haug, is a former Swiss triathlete, says she agreed to retire from the sport in 2013 after the birth of her first child and a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics – a race that A dramatic photo finish was set.

After a sprint between Sprigg and Sweden’s Lisa Norden, both athletes were awarded the same finish time. However, it was later decided to end Spirig less than 15 cm in front of Norden as he claimed his first Olympic medal.

Perhaps the most dramatic finish ever seen in triathlon, Spirig crosses the line slightly ahead of Lisa Norden in London.

“The years after that were always like another little present that I could enjoy but didn’t expect,” Spirig says. “I guess that’s why I could enjoy it and do it for so long – because I always saw it as a plus and a little present … I appreciated it.”

She’s not quite sure what her life will look like beyond this season. In addition to spending more time with her family, Spirig wants to visit schools to encourage children to take up sports and is also busy meeting sponsorship commitments.

And while training will continue in a reduced capacity, she will consider getting ready for her final race as a professional triathlete later this year.

“I will miss those races because of the emotion I feel,” Spirig says. “Racing means you have really intense emotions. Even if it’s pleasure, it’s joy, or if it’s despair — it’s all intense.”

At this stage, however, there is no doubt about her decision to retire, nor any regrets about what she would have liked to have achieved.

“There’s nothing I would have done completely differently,” Spirig says. “I think it’s time. It’s time for change, it’s the right decision for the family and I’m happy with that.”