Up close and personal with Helle Frederiksen

After an impressive runner-up finish in Penticton, Helle Frederiksen is set for another big race this weekend - the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

| September 4, 2017 | PERSONALITY

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

TriathlonWorld.com: Talk us through your season so far

Helle Frederiksen: “It almost feels as though my season is only now starting.  I started out at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico in the beginning of the year. Despite going into the race confident and with a solid amount of work in my body, I suffered heavily with nerve/back issues which we suspect was a result of an abrupt stop exiting the water. It really prevented me racing well down there and it was a real battle to keep the body moving. A couple of weeks later, having travelled to Ironman 70.3 Texas, I suffered a fiber tear in my calf during a light pre-race jog. This prevented me starting and saw me sidelined for several weeks. With the Ironman 70.3 European Championship in Denmark, I committed to racing at home for the first time since 2011, despite being very much under cooked in terms of preparation. To get second with such limited preparation really took me by surprise. Since the Ironman 70.3 Europeans, it has been all about building fitness week after week and making sure my body is conditioned for two very hard championship races. Ironman 70.3 Otepää was a nice form tester and treated as an event that I could blow off some cobwebs, rather than dive straight into two big championship events. (She would finish second at the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in Penticton.)

How hard is it to remain on form ahead of a big event?

I think it is very individual. For me, personally, I feel I am only now coming into form since early 2015, so that is a welcome feeling, making it easier to maintain. For some athletes who have been in form since the beginning of the year, or longer, it can be a challenge as championship events really require the best of an athletes both physically and mentally, and that is not always easy to sustain.

What did you learn from your second at IRONMAN 70.3 European Championship?

Despite being in the sport since 2006 and racing professionally since 2009, I would say that the result at the Ironman 70.3 European Championship taught me just as much as, if not more than, some of my biggest performances in the sport. What it showed me was that despite a couple  of inconsistent seasons, experience is a very powerful asset. Too often we (experienced/successful athletes) tend to forget how much we have in the bank. My desire to perform in Helsingør  was stronger than my fitness. And, therefore, I have no doubt that if it wasn’t for the mindset I adopted, I may not have started Helsingør at all in favor of a training block to get up to full fitness. There is no doubt I took more out of second in Helsingør than any training block could have ever given me.

Social media: a chore or being professional

Social media, as I see it, is us, as professional athletes, representing ourselves to followers, fans, sponsors, family and friends. It is part of our job and rightly so. We don’t have TV cameras following our every move and we are lucky if we get five minutes of camera time at a major championship, so in many ways it is the only way to showcase our value and publicize what we do. My personal approach is different to others and I see social media as an opportunity for me to be represented for who I am. I take pride in making my channels informative, valuable to others and a showcase of what it takes to get to the top.

How hard is it to target two events that are so different in relation to training?

I actually don’t view the two events as being so different. Not at least to the level whereby I have trained any differently. Now I may regret that come Sunday afternoon (in Penticton) but we’ll have to wait and see. My biggest concern, actually, is how I will pull up after ITU World’s (the race) and how that will impact my ability to recover.

Helle Frederiksen lead until halfway through the run in Penticton, eventually finishing second to Sarah Crowley at the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championship.

Helle Frederiksen lead until halfway through the run in Penticton, eventually finishing second to Sarah Crowley at the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championship.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

How do you see the sport of triathlon right now?

If I am honest, I am a little saddened by where the sport is at in terms of overall professionalism. Event organization, rules, coverage, competition, prize purse all lack consistency. The sport needs to be showcased in order to grow. Athletes need to be positioned as role models in order for us to inspire new generations. I think the professional side of our sport needs an overhaul, at least on the long distance side. If I could change anything it would be the number of races that have a professional field. I would concentrate the races into a world series, focus the commercial efforts on fewer races but position this as a world-series. Something like five to seven Ironman 70.3 races and two to three Ironman race, as an example, concentrate the majority of prize money into such series and create a powerful development/stepping stone program to attract new professionals and provide new opportunities. I’ve been lucky enough to get close to organizations that are not directly associated with triathlon as a sport and it is clear from the outside looking in, our sport isn’t very attractive commercially, which makes a professional athletes job a tough one if only being a professional triathlete relying on sponsors.

Do you think the 70.3 titles need to be held earlier in the year?

I’m actually not sure it would change a whole lot. I think what we are seeing is that very few that can do both distances very well. Sebi (Sebastian Kienle), Frodo (Jan Frodeno) and Daniela (Ryf) likely occupying that very few reference. Given that both championships are so competitive, athletes (rightly so) tend to favor and focus on the one championship they stand the best chance of success at. I feel we have seen the creation of 70.3 specialists and Ironman specialists, with both distances seeing a different type of racer come out on top.

How important is it for you to be a role model for younger women?

For me this is very important. Not just for women, but also men. I think nowadays we learn from the opposite sex just as much as we learn from the same sex, but, of course women relate better to the challenges women encounter. On the whole it is one of the biggest assets experienced athletes carry, their ability to inspire others by sharing their stories, being forthcoming when asked questions and generally looking out for the younger generation. I feel a big responsibility for how I go about my job, with our approaches, work ethic and attitude often being in the spotlight, there is no reason for me to be anything other than a positive role model.