By Josefine Ås
TITLE: Swimrun World Champion Mixed Category 2016
TEAM NAME: Thule Adventure Team
PARTNER: Eva Nystrom
HOME: Bondi, Australia & Lahall, Sweden
JA: How did an Australian end up living in Sweden?
AY: I always loved sport but was never very good at it growing up. In 2008, I began working at probably one of the best jobs in the world as a full-time lifeguard on Bondi Beach in Australia. My wife, Carro, and I decided to make the move from the shores of Bondi to Sweden in 2014. We live in a tiny little stuga in the forest of Lahall outside of Gothenburg with our 6-month-old daughter Tilly. So life is different but I love it just as much.
JA: You did your first your triathlon in October 2012?
AY: I did, and then I competed in triathlon for a little under three years, before putting the bike aside, short but sweet. During this time, however, I was fortunate to have some success as an Age Grouper, and was the first non-professional across the line in 2013 and 2014 at the Asia Pacific 70.3 championships. I also raced Ironman World Championships in Hawaii 2013 and 2014. In 2015, I won my age group in Long distance ITU World Championships and raced Norseman Extreme Ironman, which ended up being my last triathlon.
The year 2016 was supposed to be one of rest but then the opportunity to race ÖTILLÖ with Eva Nystrom came up and I couldn’t resist. I had heard of ÖTILLÖ but knew nothing about it and it wasn’t until the ferry to Sandhamn when someone told me there was a 20km run in the middle. We had a great day out and I’m looking forward to racing again in September, I only wish I could remember more of the course – it’s all a big blur now.
JA: This year you will be back to defend the ÖTILLÖ World Championship Mixed Team title with Eva. What did you learn from last year’s race?
AY: Eva and I have only raced together once and that was at last year’s ÖTILLÖ WC. I don’t think we will change anything, we had a fun day out. I started the day with the goal to finish; winning was just a bonus. We took our time, kept a steady pace and it seemed to work. I had not done any research of the race before so we just took each run and swim as they came. This year, family has taken priority over training but I hope to bring it together now in our final weeks.
I love how simple the sport is. I love that there are no restrictions when I go out of my front door. I run until there is water, then I swim, and then I run some more.
JA: It was your first ÖTILLÖ last year but not your first swimrun. How would you describe your ÖTILLÖ experience?
AY: ÖTILLÖ is a special race and the start of the sport as we know it today. I went into 2016 not knowing much about the course or the event but came away loving this new sport. I signed up for a few events in the lead up to 2016 ÖTILLÖ to see what works in the way of equipment but found it’s most important to be comfortable.
JA: How was it to race with Eva?
AY: Great! I couldn’t have gone any faster with any other partner, and we work well together. She is super strong so it makes my job easy just try to stay in front.
JA: You have also raced a few swimrun events with Eva’s partner Martin Flinta and you guys placed second at ÖTILLÖ Hvar in April.
AY: We are very similar in swimming and running so it works well to race together also. He has done it all in the world of MultiSport, so it’s good to learn from him.
JA: Is there a difference racing with a male or female partner?
AY: Not really. Eva swims just as fast as I do, and the same with running. Plus, it’s 65 km of running so you aren’t pushing yourself to the max at all during the day no matter whom you race with.
JA: You also organize a swimrun event in Australia, the first one in 2016. Tell us a bit about it!
AY: Yes, we’ve held two events now. The course is much shorter than events here in Europe, but it seems to be received well and we have sold out both years. The views along the course of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House are unrivalled. We are looking to roll out a few more events now in 2018.
JA: Is swimrun growing in Australia?
AY: Yeah for sure. In 2016 we held the first and only event. Now, in 2017, I think there were 4 and in 2018 I’m sure we’ll see more. The guys from Breca have 2 events over in New Zealand, so SwimRun is making a move now Down Under.
JA: You are actually the only non Swedish world Champion in Swimrun. Do you think the international competition will catch up with the Swedes soon?
AY: I think it’s only a matter of time before we see people specifically training for swimrun and making the shift from triathlon. There are some amazing athletes that I think could really shake up the swimrun world if they came across.
JA: What does swimrun represent for you?
AY: I love how simple the sport is. I love that there are no restrictions when I go out of my front door. I run until there is water, then I swim, and then I run some more. I also love competing as a team; team situations bring out the best in me, I like working together and helping each other to reach a common goal.
JA: Any tips to people who are just starting swimrun?
AY: Don’t over think it, it’s a simple sport. Find some gear that you are comfy in and go out and have fun. Don’t try new gear on race day, that’s what training is for. Work with your teammate, and remember no one cares who is the better swimmer and runner individually, you are a team.
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #3 (July 2017)