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Sat 7th Dec 2019
Interview: Kate Allen
Posted by: Annie Emmerson
Posted on: Friday 2nd May 2008

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The golden girl of triathlon and pre-race favorite of the Athen's Olympic triathlon, Loretta Harrop, looked like she had the gold medal sewn up. The multi World Cup winner, known as the one of the toughest competitors on the circuit, had come out of the swim in the lead pack and had dominated the bike. She looked like she was cruising to victory having broken all of her closest rivals, but Kate Allen from Austria, who was yet to win a World Cup, had other ideas. With only a few hundred meters to go, and within sight of the finishing line, she passed Harrop, and in doing so stunned the triathlon world by becoming the 2004 Olympic Champion. Annie Emmerson caught up with the reigning Olympic Champion following a serious bike crash which has potentially hindered her chances of defending her title.

AE You were, without a doubt, a surprise winner of the Athens Olympic triathlon. With a three minute lead off the bike few would have thought that you would go on to run Loretta Harrop (AUS) down in the home straight. Did you know or feel as if you were about to have the most devastating run leg that triathlon has ever seen?

KA I knew going into the race that I was in a great shape in biking and running. I ran as hard as I could and just tried to focus on the athlete that I could see in front of me. I had no idea what position I was in until 2km from the finish when I was told by my husband, Marcel, that gold was still possible.

AE You won a silver medal at the European Championships four months before the Olympics, but did you have any idea that you were in the kind of shape to make not just the podium, but win a gold medal in Athens?

KA You dream about it and work for it, and I knew that if the dynamics of the race went my way, then I would have a chance to win gold, but I never thought the race would have run like it did.

AE It must have been an incredible moment, what were you thinking as you crossed the line knowing you had won won gold?

KA I kind of felt numb, you have so many mixed emotions, I was happy but exhausted at the same time. Everything I lived and worked for and the whole build up to this big aim all of a sudden made sense. What happened in this moment, took days and weeks to realise.

AE How did you feel about winning a gold medal for Austria and not that of the country of your birth place?

KA I was married and happily living in Austria for nine years. I started the sport in Austria, they supported me financially to do the sport and provided training facilities and structures. I went through the qualification process and got nominated, and that makes you very proud that your country stands behind you and believes in you.

AE Austria only won two gold medals in Athens, did you become an overnight national hero?

KA Yes, people recognised me when I went shopping and you are no longer a private person. Before the Olympics I just had to deal with triathlon and all of a sudden my day was full with media appointments and events. It took me some time to adjust to that as well as maintaining my training.

AE Before Athens your running was already very strong, what did you change in your training to make it the fastest running ever seen in triathlon?

KA I had a very strong base in 2003 from the Ironman training that I did for Ironman Austria that year. I then put speed on top of that for the World Cups, and then after the World Championships in New Zealand I went back to running a lot of mileage for months. I did a lot of two and three hour runs with some specific, very short track sessions. I then did some running races early in the season and ran some fantastic times.

AE Do you think you can return to the running form you had in Athens?

KA Yes, I do, I trained really well in Australia where I did some running races and was very happy with my shape. I am just disappointed that the training has been disrupted from the accident in New Zealand, it´s not a perfect preparation.

AE Sadly you had a really bad crash in the World Cup in New Plymouth, your first race this season, tell us what happened?

KA Lisa Huetthaler crashed into my bike and I came down head first onto the road. I had 22 stitches in my face, lost three teeth, I tore a tendon in my thumb, bruised ribs and got terrible burns all over my body.

AE Do you think triathlon at elite level has changed since Athens?

KA Yes, you have to be a more complete triathlete now. All three disciplines have to be perfect, whereas in Athens you could still have a light weakness in one discipline. To win a medal in Beijing, you will have to be top in all disciplines.

AE How does a training week in the life of Kate Allen look?

KA I train 25 to 30 hours a week. Most importantly, I have to improve my swimming for the games in Beijing so I have been doing eight to nine swim sessions a week. I bike about ten hours and do six runs. To help my recovery I try to get at least three massages a week.

AE On your website you mention Dr Pansold (Red Bull's leading sports training specialist) is your mentor, how influential was he in your 2004 result?

KA I have worked with Dr Pansold since 2002 and he overlooks the structures and the physiology in my training. It's a good relationship and I get on very well with him.

AE Being a professional triathlete has its pros and cons, but one thing for sure is that it's also very physically demanding, how do you stay motivated to keep training as hard as you do?

KA I always have big goals that I set myself, so normally I have one or two highlights a year that keep me focused.

AE How was your winter training, you said you've been working on your weakest discipline, the swim, how’s it going?

KA I went to Australia in October and I have been working twice a day with my swim coach, John Beckworth. Having a 50 metre pool with a swimming coach on poolside every day was very important to me. I have also found a good rhythm with my running and biking.

AE Two weeks ago Vanessa Fernandes exposed her weakness to her rivals, albeit in horrendous conditions, but now we know she doesn’t cope well with the cold. Of course, Beijing won’t be cold and so she won't have to deal with the handicap she was dealt in Pontervedra, but still, we’ve seen she is not totally invincible. All that said, along with her closest rival Emma Snowsill, they will be hard to beat; as reigning champion how do you see it?

KA They are definitely the two strongest and most outstanding athletes at the moment. Without a doubt, Vanessa and Emma are the favorites for gold.

AE What was your sporting back ground before triathlon?

KA I was a track runner from the age of five until 15. I also did gymnastics for some years as well as a lot of sport in school.

AE Last year you were back and racing strongly at the standard distance (Kate won another silver at the European Championships and got a third place at the Manchester World Cup) but what else have you been up to for the last four years?

KA I did two years of Ironman racing, won Ironman Austria and placed fifth in Hawaii twice. In 2007 I returned to Olympic distance racing.

AE As reigning champion and Austria’s leading female triathlete it seems unbelievable that you have not yet qualified for Beijing; what do you need to do to make sure you will be there to defend your title?

KA I have three races left to qualify for Beijing. These races are the European Championships, the World Cup in Madrid and the World Championships in Vancouver. At these three races we have to achieve an A and a B result, which is a top eight and a top 12 placing.

AE How devastating would it be if you don’t make the team, and do you have a contingency plan?

KA We were pretty sure I would be qualified after New Plymouth. I nominated this race as a qualification race and trained very hard for it, and tapered down as well. At the moment I am trying to get my health and training back to normal. I hope to qualify, but if I don’t I will have done everything I possibly can. I would be terribly disappointed and I have not yet thought of a contingency plan.

AE You’ve won Austria twice, and had three top tens in Hawaii, do you think you can win it and put yourself in the record books as being Olympic Champion and Ironman World Champion?

KA I would love to win it and I would like to think I could. Maybe I will go back there, we'll see.

AE A different race and very different distances but, Chrissie’s race in Hawaii was on par with your incredible result in Athens, what did you think of Chrissie's result?

KA I was incredibly impressed with her race. In my opinion it was one of the strongest performances ever seen on Big Island. She is a breath of fresh air in the Ironman scene.

AE With an Olympic gold medal safely locked away in your cabinet, what more do you want to achieve in triathlon or any sport for that matter?

KA I would like to win a World Cup as well as a medal at the World Championships.

AE What are your dreams for the future both in life and in sport?

KA I would like to start a family after my sports career, but continue to keep fit and have an input into triathlon in Austria.

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