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The brutal training regime behind Iivo Niskanen's World Championships gold.
Iivo Niskanen ran through swamps, averaged 900 hours of exercise a year over a two-year period and all for a 36 minute and 44 second shot at glory.
That training regime, so brutal it drove him to blurred vision, vomiting and regularly feeling like his lungs were on fire, paid off in some style as he stopped the clock in first place in the 15-kilometre #event at the World Championships for a monstrous winning margin of 17.9 seconds.
His has long been an ethos of “no pain, no gain”, if anything his fault was training too much, which would often mean him getting sick at just the wrong time before a major #event.
But this season, he struck gold with the perfect preparation in front of the Finn’s home crowd for a first individual cross-country gold for the nation since 2011.
In a revealing training video in the build-up to the championships, his coach Olli Ohtonen tellingly says, “Iivo has no problem entering the dark side”, and that is apparent as he collapses face first when training through a swamp, or is left totally breathless by another punishing gym session.
Niskanen holds no punches in the fact that there isn’t much glamour behind any bid to go for gold in the 15km, a quest he and Ohtonen set out on two years ago.
“It’s like burning your lungs, like putting a lighter in your lungs,” he said of his training, which entails three to five hours a day and 20 to 30 hours a week.
That training ranges from swimming in his local lake to cycling in the rain or roller skiing on the neighbouring roads, all of the time measurements being made on his heart rate, blood and lactate levels to ensure he is in the best possible shape.
And working so hard brings with it an interesting diet. He estimates having to take on board on average 6,000 calories a day, the equivalent of that of a professional rugby player or else an Olympic rower, athletes infinitely larger than the slight Niskanen.
There were fears the sacrifices might not be worth it when he missed out on gold in the team #event after crashing with his Norwegian rival with 200m to go last week but he made amends in some style with his 15km individual glory. As he says in his own training video, “I’ve learned not to make the same mistake” in what he called a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
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