Making a Champion: Tine Holst

The road to becoming an IRONMAN Champion

You’re 27 years old, you’ve never completed a triathlon and you can’t swim front-crawl. Could you become an Ironman Champion?

Tine Holst did.

People can be incredible, and on International Women’s Day it is important to honour and respect the lengths to which both men and women have gone, and continue to go to in the push for equality. Tine Holst, Pro Triathlete and Ironman Champion spoke to our Women Only Camp on the evening of 8th March 2017; to share her story and to encourage our athletes to keep believing.

Often Ironman athletes have a lot of experience in the sport. They have a history of swimming, cycling and running before becoming a long-distance pro. One example being Daniela Ryf; she started triathlon as a hobby in 1998 before turning pro in 2007 competing in the olympic distance. Ryf represented Switzerland at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In 2014 she started working with coach Brett Suton and began her career in long-distance triathlon. Athletes like Ryf, who have competed in triathlon across different distances, bring an incredible foundation of knowledge and fitness to Ironman.

Tine Holst was working as a Physiotherapist at Club La Santa when she decided to run her first 5km with clients. She caught the running bug, completing a 1/2 marathon within 3 months and then a full marathon the following year. It was clear Tine had a talent for running but, in her words, found that running alone was too hard for the body so she transitioned to triathlon.

Swimming can be a barrier for new triathletes. Unless they have had swim coaching as a child, many find they have a lot to work on. Swimming is a technical sport and working with a coach or club is the best way to improve. Tine completed her first olympic distance triathlon, swimming breaststroke, persevering through two punctures and finally finding her rhythm on the run. 9 months later she completed Ironman Zurich.

With triathlon, like any sport, you can’t rely on physicality or fitness alone; your strength needs to extend to the mind. Tine has a powerful energy as she sits amongst us in Ferrer Hotel, relaying her journey into Ironman and the unbelievable road blocks that she has overcome to stand on the World Stage. ‘Going pro’ takes an impressive level of determination and belief. And Tine Holst’s self-belief is undeniable.

In 2009, only two years after entering the sport, Tine was in a serious accident. She was hit by a car. Scenarios such as this test the biological phenomenon: fight or flight and in that moment, Tine defined herself a fighter, and coined her motto: don’t stop believing.

Two and half months after the accident Tine completed an Ironman. Four months after the accident she competed again and won her age-group in Barcelona. When she was asked whether it was painful to race, so soon into her recovery, Tine smiled: “I was so happy I could run”.

The combination of hyper-awareness and fear of pain can be dangerous for an athlete. Most people will tell you to listen to your body, as you know it best. However, too much association with ones body can lead to questioning every twitch and tingle which, in turn, can hold you back. “You’re the boss of your body” as Tine puts it. The ideal is being able to listen to it while learning to work with the pain and not be afraid of it. An understanding of when to push and when to stop is paramount.

Having won her age-group in Barcelona, Tine was at the beginning of her triathlon journey. One that was undoubtedly heading towards an amateur Ironman’s dream: Kona. Unfortunately in the winter of 2009 Tine tore her ACL in a skiing accident. Given the severity of the tear, most would have predicted this would be the end of Tine’s triathlon career but Tine didn’t stop believing. She worked incredibly hard during her rehabilitation and qualified for Kona 7 months after the operation, competing in 2011.

With the support of her sponsors, Tine went Pro in 2012; and in 2016 she won Ironman Lanzarote.

There is no doubt that a career in sport is hard. Finding a work life balance, travelling the world to train and race and the continuous physical and mental demands. As Tine tells her story, her positivity radiates. Her self-belief is not only inspiring, it’s infectious; and at the end of our seminar with Tine, the women are both blown away with the twists and turns of Tine’s story and galvanised by her success.

This weekend Tine will return to Ironman Lanzarote to defend her title.

We have three words for her: don’t stop believing.

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