Breaking the 8-hour barrier: Daniel Hansson at ÖTILLÖ WC 2016
By Josefine Ås
TITLE: Swimrun World Champion Men’s Category 2016
TEAM NAME: Swedish Armed Forces
PARTNER: Jesper Svensson
Josefine Ås: Could you give us a little resumé of your swimrun career?
DH: I have done ÖTILLÖ six times, and finished five times on the podium and won the race twice.
JA: How would you describe the evolution of the sport since you started in 2010?
DH: Even seven years ago, it was an extreme event. Today it is still one of the most difficult one-day races I know, but it has become a sport. A sport with tough and solid competition, a championship race and its own equipment.
JA: Last year, you and your partner Lelle Moberg beat the magical sub 8-hour limit. How far can this race go in terms of speed or will your record be hard to beat?
DH: That day we had great teamwork, we both felt physically strong and the competition was tough. So yes, I think the record will be hard to beat.
JA: Lelle is unfortunately injured for this year so how does it feel to train and race without him?
DH: Lelle and I make a great team and we have fine-tuned our way of racing as a team to a high level. I am looking forward to the day when we will be standing together at the starting line again.
JA: Who are you racing with for ÖTILLÖ 2017?
DH: Jesper Svensson, and I am excited. Though we didn’t team up until late August, I think we can be competitive as we both have raced ÖTILLÖ several times and can complement each other in the right way.
JA: How do you prepare for ÖTILLÖ?
DH: I study the course in detail and set up different goals I think we should achieve along the course. It’s a way of preparing myself mentally, I think.
JA: How is your mental state before the start of the World Championship?
DH: It is “focused”. It’s a long race and there are many things to manage along the course, including the tactics from other teams.
JA: Let’s go back to the Finish Line last year with a time of just under 8h. No one would have thought that possible even a few years ago.
DH: Crossing the Finish Line at 7:59 was liberating. My emotions had been up and down during the last few hours. Seven hours into the race, we had gone over our time schedule because we overheated and suddenly lost a lot of speed. When we reached the last swims and cooled down, we managed to come back again with the time objective. But then, 400 meters from the finish, I almost panicked. The course was slightly changed and extended with 300 meters and suddenly I thought we would lose the sub 8-hour mark. We both forgot all the pain at that moment and sprinted all out.
JA: How would you describe ÖTILLÖ as a race?
DH: I would describe the course as rough but what attracts me is the “team thing”. In its origin, racing in teams of two was a safety measure but it can be a real advantage. I find it so cool that two people can work together and race faster than any one person could ever do on his own.
JA: Both you and your life partner Kristin Larsson are world champions in swimrun. You also have a 3-year-old son and a full time job. How do you find time and energy to train at such a high level?
DH: It has become a lifestyle. Running, swimming, paddling and biking are normal daily activities for us and often without the goal of training. For example, commuting to work by bike, running at an easy pace in the forest to “clear the mind” or socialising with friends when kayaking around Stockholm. But when we plan for a tough training session, we also make a plan for recovery. We also receive great support from our families when there are big races.
JA: What does it take to be a successful swimrun athlete?
DH: Swimrunners race with nature so it’s your ability to cope with the challenges that nature brings.
JA: If you had the opportunity to be a full-time swimrun pro, would you train differently?
DH: Being a full-time athlete in any sport gives you the possibility to use more time for training, recovery and preparations and the required performances will come with that.
JA: Swedes are still quite dominating in swimrun. How and when do you think that will change?
DH: The day when there’s a mix of nationalities at the top of swimrun is not far away. With so many races around the globe now, more competitive teams from other countries will surely pop up.
Article first published August 2017