Unfinished Business: A Look Into The Mind of Olympic Silver Medalist Lisa Norden From the Oakley Safehouse in Kona
2012 Olympic silver medalist, Lisa Norden spent over a week with us during the IRONMAN World Championships, living in the Kona Oakley Safehouse along side Oakley staff members. At first glance, Norden can be perceived as a bit shy; quiet perhaps. But over time, you begin to get the sense that Norden is not so much shy, as she is just a down right polite, well mannered girl from Sweden, trying not over-impose in any way (she didn’t). After a bit of coaxing, Norden opened up and fit right in, just like she was a part of the Oakley family, which she is.
Underneath that politeness and reserved persona, however, is a warrior like tenacity; a determination to be the best. Norden is already on top of the world. She brought home one of only eight medals for her home country of Sweden this summer in London. She has won some of the biggest races of the year, including one in her home country and defended her title as the Hy-Vee Triathlon Champion. She’s one race away from completely dominating the 2012 ITU WTS field and yet she still isn’t satisfied. Norden spent the majority of her time in Kona not soaking up sun in a hammock on our ocean front property, but training for hours upon hours a day on the devastatingly warm Kona highways. We even caught her coming out of the IRONMAN swim start, in scorching Kona, wearing a wet suit – preparation for her final race of the season this weekend in Auckland, New Zealand; determination, dedication. As she enters a crucial time in her life and her career, the Swede remains focused and on point, while still remembering to have fun and embrace the moment.
While Norden prepared for her quest to claim the season title in New Zealand, we sat down with her to discuss her time in Kona, what its like to be an Olympic silver medalist, her plans for the future, and much more. Take a look into the mind of Lisa Norden (we think you’ll like what you find).
Oakley: Let’s talk about this season; it’s been unreal for you! Although nothing beats an Olympic silver medal (besides a gold), your overall season has been pretty awesome. What are your highlights?
Lisa Norden: I think the highlight has been how they kind of worked off each other. So, with the timing of Stockholm right after London, to come home as a silver medalist and then win at home; both separate were great, but the two of them together have exceeded anything I’d done before. And then to top that off with Hy-Vee, to get that triple has completed all the aspects of what I’m doing and what I’m doing it for. It all just went “Bam,” into four weeks.
Oakely: Where would winning the season title rank on your list of 2012 accomplishments?
LN: I think what I’m most scared of going into all this, is getting another silver medal. Because that would stand to deliver further that that silver is second place. And as an athlete, you want to be the best. If I could overcome 30 points – it’s like 9 thousandths of a second, its not much, but its enough to differ the first from the second. If I could overcome it now, it would be like a little revenge from the silver medal [in London]. It would also complete an already amazing season; the season of my life that I probably wont ever be able to repeat again at any time because I don’t think these races are ever going to come around the same way.
Oakley: Next up for you is Auckland. There are a lot of great girls competing in this race. What are your thoughts?
LN: It’s a funny field. If you’re not in contention, you’re not going. So everyone that’s going, is good. But its not going to be a huge field. It’s a world final but there’s a bit of domestics going on as well, which might change the race a bit. Andrea Hewitt will have some of the New Zealand girls working for her and that could possibly change the dynamics. Although my sole responsibility when I get there is so sit on Erin’s [Densham] shoulder and make sure I place ahead of her. That’s the only thing I have to do. But it will be an interesting race. I think a lot of girls are tired. It’s been a long year. If you came out in April and you were flying, it takes a long time to keep that going into mid-October.
Oakely: Speaking of being tired, we know it’s been a long season, especially with the added responsibility that comes with being an Olympic silver medalist; what are you most looking forward to after this season?
LN: After Auckland, I have the Bahamas triathlon, so that will be kind of nice. Saying that, after having been here [Kona] for two weeks, you kind of feed off the energy that is here. And seeing the people here prepare, get ready to go out today and do their job, I kind of feel like “Okay, lets get over there now so I can do my job.”
We’ve had a countdown, my coach and I. Today it was six more days. Six more days to keep focused. That’s easy, I can do that. But afterwards, I have the Bahamas, some sponsorship obligations and then some time off. I’m going to go home to Sweden. I still haven’t had time to have an Olympic celebration back home with my people. I’m looking forward to going to town and having a nice dinner; just do all the things I haven’t done for ages. Eat some foods I haven’t eaten in ages. I need to go apartment shopping, catch up with my friends and I’ve got a wedding my first weekend back. You do miss all your friends and family. Its just time to catch back up.
Oakely: Switching gears back to this weekend (IRONMAN World Championships in Kona): For the average person, being in Kona during race week motivates you to want to be fit, train and potentially even get involved in racing. For you as a professional triathlete, does watching the athletes complete the longer distance motivate you as well?
LN: I think all sport is exciting to see the highest level of it. This [distance] is not what I’m doing right now, but it’s a similar thing and they’re doing what they do on the very very highest level you can possibly get to. And there are so many age groupers out there that have work and families and lots of things going on and still, they get themselves ready. A lot of age groupers even look more fit than some of the pros do. Their lifestyles are so tailored around the sport and they’re passionate about what they do. It kind of reminds you as a professional athlete, that you’ve been spoiled. What they do as a hobby, I can do as my job. They would die to do what I’m doing and they might do it better if they could because they are balancing so many more things right now. Seeing all that passion and the energy that they bring into this weekend and into this race; of course I feed off of that. Everyday you go out for a run and you run so much harder than you’re meant to because you get caught up in everyone else running around you for the race in Kona.
Oakely: That being said; any interest in jumping up into longer distances?
LN: [Laughing] Yeah, it’s a LONG day! I had a lot of time at the pool during their race!
Seriously though, it’s definitely in my plans. Having done a few sessions, its cool to see the environment; to see Ali’i Drive on the big screen and to know what it looks like and what it feels like in reality, having ridden back and forth there just a few hours before the race, I know how humid it is and how warm it is; it gives the race a lot of respect and I’m very impressed by what the pros are doing out there; the times, the effort, the fighting spirit, and for sure one day I’m going to come back and have a go at it myself. So, I’m taking notes!
Oakely: Staying here at the Kona Oakley Safehouse has had to have been relaxing, being away from the crowds and the media circus. What has it meant to you to hang out around here this week with the Oakley crew?
LN: That’s been another dimension to the sport. To get a little bit of a peek into what you guys have been doing and the professional side of the sponsors and how life works with what you’re doing. And that kind of widened my perspective of what’s going on behind the scenes and how it works. And then to have all these athletes come around. I’m sitting here on my computer and Belinda Granger comes through, the Bennett’s [Laura and Greg], Chris Lieto, Craig Alexander and that’s just normal. You get to chat with everyone and catch up and then see them go off and do their race.
Apart from that, it’s a fantastic training venue. I went swimming in the bay this morning, you’re right on Ali’i Drive to go out running but you’re still a bit off the main road so you can go and run by yourself too if you want. Getting out of the crowds is nice too.
Oakely: At Oakley we consider you guys more than just our sponsored athletes, what has your personal experience been like here at the Kona Oakley Safehouse?
LN: It’s like a little family here! When I come down to the main house, you guys are all asking me why I didn’t join you for dinner last night (she was training) and I’m like “I’m sorry!” [Laughs]. It’s not that corporate, “suit” kind of environment that you get a bit nervous to be a part of. Everyone is treated the same and there is always a new person around for dinner or someone else around that’s somewhat connected to what we do in this sport.
As a training environment, its fun, it’s relaxing. There’s enough integrity and you get enough of your own space, as well as always having the option to have someone to talk to or share a coffee with. So it’s been a perfect balance.
Oakely: To wrap all this up – long term – what are your goals? What’s next for Lisa Norden?
LN: I’m at a bit of a stepping-stone into the next phase of my career. I’m changing coaches, I’m apartment shopping. After having spent five years living out of a suitcase and traveling with my coach, I’m now trying to find my own setup. I’m still doing what I’m doing, but hopefully better, just in a slightly different way where I can look after all the other bits around Lisa Norden as a person and not just the triathlete, chasing the best weather or the best training locations.