Nicola Spirig is ready to retire after the ‘intense emotions’ of her racing career.

Old habits are hard to break, but Spirig, 40, knows it’s time for a change.

She has three children aged nine, five and three and looks forward to spending more time with her family and taking a break from her busy training schedule.

Her new routine will likely include an hour of exercise each morning, rather than the three daily swim, bike and run sessions she is used to, she said.

“Being a professional athlete also means that I have to train every day,” Spirig says. “I don’t have days off, I don’t have holidays, I’m always training…always ready to work my hardest.”

An exhausted Spirig lies on the ground at the end of the 2012 London Olympics.

Judging by the start of her last season, Spierig, a two-time Olympic medalist and six-time European champion, is not going to end her professional triathlon career in peace.

Earlier this year, a serious bike accident threatened to derail her season as she suffered three broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a punctured lung.

It came months before Spierig was due to compete in the Phoenix Sub8 project, a team event in which two women — Spierig and British triathlete Katrina Matthews — attempted to complete a full-distance triathlon — a 2.4-mile swim, 112 miles. bike, running 26.2 miles – the first time in less than eight hours.

Remarkably, despite injuries sustained in the bike crash, Spirig completed the test in seven hours, 34 minutes and 19 seconds on June 5 at the German Lausitzring, three minutes behind Mathews.

“The accident was in February … They didn’t let me breathe heavily, which means I couldn’t train properly,” Spirig says.

“I missed about 12 weeks of training that I had to do, but still the last few weeks before the Sub8 project went very well and I could see how the physical form came, I could see how I became stronger and faster. to say that I made 100% the best of the situation.”

Spirig crosses the finish line in Germany at the end of the Phoenix Sub8 project.

Unlike a regular triathlon, Spirig was accompanied by a team of 10 pacers for the Sub8 project to set the stage for fast times, especially on the bike.

Challenge and preparation for it are part of Spirit of Nikola is a short film released by Swiss sportswear brand On earlier this month chronicling Spirig’s long and successful triathlon career.

The Swiss star first took up the sport at the age of 10 and has competed in more Olympic Games – five – than any other triathlete, winning gold in London in 2012 and silver in Rio 2016. This was at a time when triathlon was a relatively new sport in the world. The Olympic program debuted in 2000.

“I was a pretty good junior and beat some of the Swiss athletes going to the Sydney Olympics (in 2000), so I thought it might be possible to go to the Olympics next time,” Spierig says.

“That was when my personal Olympic dream really took off. But to go five times and actually become an Olympic champion and win another medal has never been in my head like that.

“I thought I would stop much earlier. I studied – I’m a lawyer, so I thought that after the second Olympics I would have a more or less normal life as a lawyer.

But even now Spirig is at the end of her career, having competed in more than 120 world triathlon events, her love for the sport still burns as brightly as ever.

“The most important thing is the passion for it – I still love it,” she says.

“On the one hand, I love to train, move, be active; it just makes me feel good. On the other hand, I like challenges and racing and I love to see where my limits are and how far I can go, how fast I can go.”

Spirig competes in the women's triathlon at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Beyond medals and podium finishes, of which there have been many, Spirig has learned life lessons from her triathlon career — even drawing on her racing experience while training to become a lawyer.

“I had my final exams and everyone was so scared and excited,” she recalls. “I just said that I used to have pressure. I know how to deal with pressure because I have it all the time at the races, and I know how to work towards the goal – how to be efficient, how to plan.

“It wasn’t training, it was training. It was easy for me in a way, because I learned all this in the sport and could just apply it to my studies.”

Sport, she says, “helps you deal with real life problems.” But there were also times when life helped Spirig figure out her approach to sports.

That includes how her attitude to working out changed after having kids – a time when recovery ceased to exist and was sometimes reduced to playing with Lego, she jokes.

“For example, after a bad session, even before the birth of children, I spent days thinking about it and thinking in my mind why it was a bad session and what I could have done differently,” Spirig says.

“Now there is simply no time. I see that there are so many more important things in life that you should not be upset because of one unsuccessful workout.

Spirig, whose husband, Reto Hug, is a former Swiss triathlete, says she would be ready to retire after having her first child in 2013 and winning a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics – a race that was decided by a spectacular photo finish.

After a sprint to the finish line between Spirig and Sweden’s Lisa Norden, both athletes finished with the same time. However, it was later recognized that Spierig finished less than 15 centimeters ahead of Norden as she took her first Olympic medal.

In perhaps the most dramatic finish of the triathlon, Spirig crosses the line, narrowly ahead of Lisa Norden in London.

“The years after that were always just another little gift that I could enjoy but didn’t expect,” Spierig says. “I think that’s why I was able to enjoy it and also do it for so long – because I always looked at it as a plus and a little gift… I just appreciated it.”

She’s not entirely sure what her life will look like after this season. In addition to spending more time with her family, Spirig wants to visit schools to inspire children to play sports, and is also busy with sponsorship obligations.

While training will continue with a reduced squad, later this year she will consider preparing for her last race as a professional triathlete.

“I think I will miss racing because of the emotions,” Spirig says. “Racing means you have really strong emotions. Even if it is joy, pleasure or disappointment, it is all very strong.”

However, at this stage, she has no doubts about her decision to retire, nor regrets about what she would like to achieve.

“There is nothing I would do completely differently,” Spierig says. “I just feel like the time has come. It’s time for a change, it’s the right decision for the family and I’m happy with it.”