Anna Kiesenhofer on winning the Olympic Games in Tokyo: “So many people wrote an email saying that it inspires them”


Olympics – Yolo BedTime

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Anna Kisenhofer’s feet have barely touched the ground since her shock road race victory at the Olympic Games.

The Austrian went from being relatively unknown to worldwide fame in no time and won the gold medal in Tokyo last month, the first cycling gold for Austria since the Games of 1896.

As a mathematician and university professor, Kiesenhofer devoted her free time to training and racing. The story of an amateur rider beating the pros caught the world’s interest and the 30-year-old was surprised by the response.

Also read: Anna Kiesenhofer: The mathematician who paved an unconventional path to Olympic success in Tokyo

“It was crazy,” said Kisenhofer on Thursday morning in a video call to VeloNews. “As it was a surprise win for many or all, it was just overwhelming. I’m not used to that kind of media attention.

“In a way, I’m a hobby cyclist because I have a full-time job. So I’m really not used to spending so much time interviews and being contacted by so many sponsors, and people are offering things. “

Kiesenhofer is not a “hobby cyclist” out of disinterest from top teams, but for them a personal decision. She spent a year in racing as a pro in 2017 but stepped down to find her own way into the sport.

Interest has increased since her Olympic victory, but Kiesenhofer does not consider any major decisions.

“I mainly try to do it on my own, but I want to reach some people who will help me because I just have no experience. You can easily get the wrong deals if you don’t really know what you’re really worth for sponsors, for example, ”she said.

Also read: Communication breakdown will not overshadow the end of Hollywood for Anna Kiesenhofer

Kiesenhofer is certain that she will not sign a full-time racing contract. She wants to keep racing, but on her own terms.

The vortex of media interviews, sponsorship offers and the trip home from Tokyo leaves Kiesenhofer little time to really appreciate what has been achieved. However, the gold medal is more to her than just that dramatic race in Japan, it is the culmination of much work and other victories along the way.

“I didn’t even have the time to be too emotional. I was so busy just telling my story in the interviews that I didn’t really have time for myself to think about the medal and what was behind it. It’s just lying around right now and I hope I find the time to really think about myself, ”she told VeloNews.

“For me it has a high symbolic value because it stands for all the work that I put into this race and also for all the other little races that I worked really hard for and that no one noticed. When you go to the Olympics you work a little more, but the essence wasn’t that different. I’ve worked the same way in every little race in my hometown. Nobody sees it, and I might just walk away with a smile and a chocolate bar.

“Here I do the same job, but only two percent more and walk away with a gold medal and the attention of the whole world.”

Since Kiesenhofer ran away with gold, Kiesenhofer has contacted a lot of people to say that she inspired them to get on a bike.

While many of us can only imagine reaching the level required to win Olympic gold, it is something tangible to see that a person with a day job devotes their time to a passion.

“It’s crazy because it touches so many people the way I get emails from people, such as math professors and feminists,” said Kiesenhofer. “I don’t know, but it just inspires so many people, that’s what makes it so special.”

Seize opportunities

While there was a lot of talk about racing radios and the lack of them for the Olympic Games, Kiesenhofer’s victory was about taking a risk. She knew that if she stayed in the peloton throughout the race, her chance of a decent result would be minimal.

The same thought crossed her mind when she attacked the last two of her four runaways on the last climb of the day. Many questioned the reasons for their move, but Kiesenhofer wasn’t aiming for gold at the moment. She just wanted to stay out as long as possible and give herself the best chance of a top 10.

Also read: Anna Kiesenhofer surprises the Dutch with a huge breakaway victory

“That was really a gut feeling during the race. I didn’t really plan that, ”she said of the attack. “I thought the peloton would eventually catch up and I would just end up in a reduced group, you know, maybe in the top 10 if it’s a small group. So everything that happened wasn’t really my plan. I didn’t think we’d get such a big gap.

“At the end of this long climb, I realized that I was the strongest because I was moving forward, just because I had the feeling that we were driving very slowly. The others hurt and I wasn’t hurt and it surprised me because we really weren’t fast. On the flat part along the lake, they began to be a little reluctant to make curves in the front. And I thought, “If you ride like this, the peloton will catch up with us”. Then there was still a small climb left and I had to attack.

“I knew I was a good time trial driver, so I had absolute confidence that I would be much faster on my own when the others weren’t working.”

Anna Kiesenhofer walked the last climb at the Olympic Games in Tokyo alone, without realizing what it would mean for her Photo: Greg Baker / AFP via Getty Images

Kiesenhofer was still racing for whatever she could get at this point and with the limited information available to her and the other drivers, she dared not believe until she crossed the finish line that she had actually won gold.

“Even 100 meters from the finish line, I was still so scared that suddenly an orange lightning bolt passed me. Of course there was the board that showed me the times. So it was fine and it would have been clear that I was going to win, but I didn’t fully trust the board, ”she said.

“I thought maybe they forgot a driver or they didn’t update the times. That they had the wrong information. I didn’t want to take the risk of losing the race because I didn’t drive hard enough. I was never sure if I would win. Only when I really crossed the finish line did I realize that I had won. “

A little more than a minute after Kiesenhofer had crossed the finish line, Annemiek van Vleuten celebrated, believing she had won gold. Moments later, she was heard saying “I got it wrong” when she realized the title wasn’t hers.

There was a fire on social media and people criticized Van Vleuten for apparently not congratulating Kiesenhofer, but the Austrian said she couldn’t have been nicer. It wasn’t until the following day that Kiesenhofer realized that there had been confusion about the race win.

“When we made it onto the podium, I didn’t even know how confused Annemiek was about her second place. She was so composed and so nice that there was nothing better than to point out that there was such a great deal of confusion, ”said Kiesenhofer. “I’ve seen comments that she didn’t congratulate me and all.

“I don’t know if she really congratulated me, but she was just super nice. She congratulated me indirectly. Anyway, she got in touch with me directly the next day and we talked and I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you didn’t know you were second and I loved the way you behaved have. and I could never have been so composed. ‘”

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