Laura Philipp: Europe’s best triathlete
What does it take to become a champion triathlete? Laura shares her journey to European victory.
The last 18 months of our lives have been nothing short of challenging for everyone including professional athletes. When Kona 2020, the highlight of the long-distance triathlon calendar, was cancelled due to coronavirus, many members of the triathlon community had to go back to the drawing board.
Many triathletes have been trying to find their form to qualify for Kona 2021 after a fallow year of training and racing . Building enough stamina with very few benchmarks over the past year from which to train would be a challenge like never before.
Laura Philipp has proven herself to be one of the world’s best triathletes, but the early months of 2021 were fraught with uncertainty and injury. Her main goal this year was to qualify for Kona early in the year and give her as much time as possible to peak for the race in October.
Long-distance triathlons at elite levels are notoriously arduous both mentally and physically, so how did Laura defy the odds?
Injury, race cancellations and the unknown
"My target event for qualification was in Texas in March but when it was cancelled, I didn’t know what to do," she says speaking to us from her home in Heidelberg. "I’d built the last few months of training around this one event and this was a huge setback for me."
The clock continued to tick and Laura couldn’t afford to rest when her future was riding on qualification. After a particularly long stint on the turbo trainer, she felt a niggle in her hip that she could no longer ignore. Trips to and from various doctors and physiotherapists confirmed her worst fear: “I couldn’t enter Tulsa because of my injury and I didn’t know how long my recovery would be at this point,” she explains.
Timing is everything when it comes to racing, particularly with triathlons. Athletes must build up to their target event so that they’re in peak form by the time it comes around. Having to let go of the strongest shape of her life was heartbreaking for Laura. “I had to stop training for 7 weeks, which is a long time for an endurance athlete,” she says. “I lost all form and fitness and it was a real low point for me mentally,” she adds.
This was not Laura’s first rodeo and she knew she had to be patient with her recovery in order to return as soon as possible.
Still the clock ticked.
She and her coach (and husband, Philip Seipp) sat down to reassess the racing calendar. When is the next realistic event in which Laura could potentially qualify for Kona?
Finland. 14th August 2021. Women’s European championship.
“It’s a special event because we have the full media focus on our race,” she says owing to the fact that the men’s and women’s competitions were separated for the first time. “Though it would’ve been nice to race on home soil in Frankfurt where the men’s race was, it was really special to have a female-only event that wouldn’t be affected by other races being run in parallel.”