Rasmus Henning, Denmark’s greatest triathlete, announced today that he will retire after competing for the fourth time at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on October 13.
In a 13-year professional career, Henning won the first two $200,000 checks for winning at the Hy-Vee in 2007 and 2008, won 5 ITU World Cups, took silver at the 2001 ITU Long Distance World Championship in Frederica, finished 7th and 8th at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Triathlon, set a mark of 7:52:36 with a 2:39 marathon at the Ironman-distance Challenge Roth in 2010 and won the $50,000 top prize at this year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
"This is a decision that has grown on me during this season and was finally decided within the last weeks my family and I returned to Denmark this summer after almost two years living at the sports resort Playitas on the Canary Island Fuerteventura,” said Henning, who will turn 37 on November 13. “I have been in elite sports for 25 years and have enjoyed much success and I have drawn great experiences from this sport I love. But everything has a price and these past few years I have too often had to let down my family in order to pursue my own goals as an athlete. Now feels like the right time to say goodbye to this beautiful sport on the highest level.”
Henning is going out on a good season which includes wins at Abu Dhabi, the Half Challenge Fuerteventura and Ironman 70.3 Calgary as well as a disappointing 7th at Ironman Texas. In a press release, he expressed a few regrets in his career, including a disappointing 5th, 23rd and 14th in his first three shots at Ironman Hawaii. “Few things have eluded me in my career that for me has been a fantastic ride since turning professional in 2000,” he said. “Of course I would have liked to win an Olympic medal and I gave it two shots resulting in a 7th and 8th place in 2004 and 2008. A podium in Hawaii has been a dream since the 2009 season, but I have yet to break the Kona code and will give it one last try this October.”
Henning said that at age 36, his sport has saddled him with an increasing number of injuries which have served as a signal that his time at the pinnacle of the sport was nearing its end and he wanted to quit on his own terms. “The last few years I have felt how my body has begun to struggle with the hard work I've put it through and I have had a lot of problems with my feet and knees,” he said. “It makes you think about the future and that you want to be able to plays sports with friends and family and also be active for the rest of your life, and for me it does not make sense anymore to ignore the signals from my body. You can accept a certain amount of pain and physical problems as a pro athlete in the pursuit of your dreams but the balance is just not right anymore."
Henning says he remains hopeful about his chances at Ironman Hawaii, but admits he may be leaving without achieving his final dream. "Racing Ironman Hawaii is tough,” he wrote. “I haven't been able to break the code yet. I dream of being able to end my career in style in Kona but I'm very much aware of the fact that it's been difficult for me to prepare myself as well as I have the last three years. Since moving back to Denmark and our new house I haven't been able to find that rhythm in my training that I usually have. Adding foot problems to this leaves me unable to say whether I will have a crack at the podium in my final race. I would still say that I probably have the talent to take a podium spot on a day where everything works out for me, such as in Abu Dhabi, but more realistically I expect to finish a bit further down."
Henning says that he will stay connected to the sport with a new business. “I have started a company called Tri Nordic,” he said. “It is partly a triathlon community with training sessions and seminars, camps and lectures while the other part will be distributing high end triathlon products in the Nordic countries.”
Henning says he will continue to participate in endurance sport for fun and in 2013 will participate in the famed Swedish Classic, which includes the Vansbrosimningen, the largest open water swim in the world, the cycling race Vättern Rundan, the cross country run Lindingöloppet in addition to the legendary 90 km Nordic skiing race, Vasaloppet.