She is 30 years young, she has no team and is collecting titles in mathematics: Anna Kiesenhofer, a different kind of athlete.
He who laughs first, laughs best: Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna Kiesenhofer and Elisa Longo Borghini
Everything was ready for the hat trick in Oranje at the women's Olympic road race after the successes of Marianne Vos in 2012 and Anna van der Breggen in 2016.
“I'm ready to suffer,” said Annemiek van Vleuten, already world champion on the road (2019) and in the time trial (2017, 2018). And that is what the 38-year-old did on Sunday: despite a fall, she fought her way to the finish solo, cheered for her now complete career – and fell into disrepair a few moments later.
She had not spent herself on gold, but on silver, as she was told. Another winner has long been celebrated.
“We forgot her,” said the Swiss Marlen Reusser on record.
“You” is a sensational 30-year-old from Niederkreuzstetten in Lower Austria. “Her” is called Anna Kiesenhofer, she is a mathematician at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, without a professional contract, without a team – and none of the favorites were on the bill or in the back of her mind.
And now she has won the 21st gold medal for Austria at the Summer Olympics 6,178 days after Kate Allen's success in the Athens triathlon and 6,175 days after the sailors Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher. And the first at a major cycling event since Christiane Soeder won bronze in the 2007 World Championships and silver in the individual time trial the following year.
“I've never had such a difficult medal,” said Anna Kiesenhofer, who hasn't won too many medals at all. Silver at the time trial state championships in 2016, gold in 2019, 2020 and 2021, plus gold in the road race in 2019, that's it.
In 2017, Anna Kiesenhofer drove a season in the women's team at Lotto Soudal, it was a year in which she barely even reached the finish line, and she terminated the contract prematurely in order to devote herself to her profession. “I noticed that professional sport is too much physical and psychological stress for me and that I prefer to only do hobby sport.” It was not until 2019 that she got back into racing. And now this:
550 grams of silver with a gold coating weighing around one gram.
Of course, three factors weighed far more heavily: luck, the surprise effect – and the radio ban. The neutralized start was just over when Anna Kiesenhofer attacked. A quartet joined her, Carla Oberholzer from South Africa, Vera Looser (sic!) From Namibia, Omer Shapira from Israel and Anna Plichta from Poland.
What should happen on the 134 kilometers, the favorites may have thought and let the breakaway women have their way.
The lead grew noticeably, Vera Looser could no longer keep up in the big climb and finally gave up the race. After 50 kilometers, Carla Oberholzer also fell back. At kilometer 76, 9:20 minutes were reported between the trio in the lead and the favorites.
After the last climb, Anna Kiesenhofer took the lead solo, began her private individual time trial over 41 kilometers – and finally brought a lead of 1:15 minutes on Annemiek van Vleuten and 1:29 on third-placed Italian Elisa Longo Borghini. The favorites had miscounted, they had forgotten Anna Kiesenhofer. And didn't know.
The harder, the more beautiful
The 91st Austrian medal at the Summer Games was “difficult to grasp” for Anna Kiesenhofer. At the finish line I thought I had to keep going. I emptied myself completely. But actually the tough victories are the most satisfying. “
The 30-year-old from the 962-inhabitant community of Niederkreuzstetten in the Lower Austrian district of Mistelbach began her athletic career in duathlon and triathlon, an injury meant that she had to concentrate on cycling.
But there were two reasons why it wasn't enough for a great professional career: Personal discomfort in the crowd at road races (“I don't have the character for that. I don't like it that much in the field”) – and professional. Anna Kiesenhofer did her bachelor's degree at the University of Vienna, her master's degree at the University of Cambridge, and finally her doctorate in 2016 at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. And since 2017 she has been working at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology on Lake Geneva.
“Everything was fine. Luck plays a major role in road racing. I was up at the right time, then had the courage to attack, and the group was also helpful in building my lead. In the end I was the strongest in the group and then drove away from the front, ”said Kiesenhofer, explaining her recipe for success.
And also “the surprise factor was on my side. They wouldn't have given a well-known driver that much advantage, so I had the advantage that I'm an underdog. ”
Anna Kiesenhofer is of course not only intelligent, but also refreshingly honest. “I'm a bit complicated and I always want some extra sausage. Three different mixtures of isotonic drinks, and I'm a bit tricky with the material. ”The reason for this is obvious:“ I'm used to doing everything for myself, and then I have special requests. ”
What will happen to the athletic mathematician? In any case, the 30-year-old doesn't have a lot of thoughts about signing a professional contract. “Maybe for the time trial. But not for street races. “
Because one thing is clear: Since this Sunday, she is no longer an underdog. In the individual time trial on Wednesday, the others do not have to fear a surprise from Lower Austria: Austria did not get a quota place.