Q&A WITH… SIMON HANSEN

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Country: Denmark
Profession: Athlete – 200m
Career highlights:

  • 2020 Olympian
  • 200m National Record Holder – 20.49
  • 9 National senior titles
  • 15 National youth/junior/U23 titles

Where are you at your happiest?
I’m probably at my happiest when I hang out with my friends and/or family, eating some good food and having some good old Danish “hygge” – preferably after a meet where I’ve performed well. Those are some good times.

24 national titles is no easy feat, which title was the most challenging for you to win?
The most challenging title was the 200m title, which I won in 2019. I had had a horrendous college experience in the US in 2017 and 2018 which left me injured and with a lot of ground to make up in my life. During 2018, I was also diagnosed with depression. Being able to come back to the track in 2019 was no walk in the park, and winning the national title was a sign to myself that I was back to my old self with a lot of room to grow – not only as an athlete but as a human being.

For us non-sprinters, can you explain how to run the curve properly in the 200m?
If you’ve ever been told that the 200m is an all-out sprint from start to finish, then you’ve been misinformed. The body is just not capable of sustaining an all-out sprint for that long. If you do it anyway, you might be able to run a good first 120m, but then the athletes that actually understand how to run a good 200 will blow past you. Personally, I go all-out the first 50m. Then I relax and kind of “float” to try and reserve energy for the next 50m. In other words, I just let the legs roll. Then with a 100m to go, I hit the gas again and go all-out. During the entire race, relaxation is key.

As a consultant to other athletes, what lessons do you like to impart on them from your own experience?
When I mentor other athletes, communication is the most important thing. I do not have a fancy sports science education, so you won’t see me drawing graphs on a board and taking the 100% scientific approach. I like to work from experience and things I’ve learnt from other athletes, coaches, and books I’ve read. First and foremost, I try to listen as much as possible and then draw on my own experience and things I’ve learnt throughout the years to see how it could/would apply to the specific context. It’s a lot of analytical thinking, but I like that part of it. Also, one of the hardest things in sports is being self-aware enough to see your own flaws and mistakes, which I also try to stress the importance of. Finally, and most importantly, I try to get people to understand that being too hard on yourself after a bad performance is the fastest way to mediocrity. Yes, you’re allowed to be disappointed, mad, frustrated, etc. after a bad performance, and most of the time it will lead to added motivation, but being TOO hard on yourself creates more problems than it solves. I’m talking from experience.

What hidden talent do you have?
I’m actually a decent cook. I also like to be in the kitchen which helps a lot. I was once asked by someone to make them the same homemade tortilla dish four nights in a row, so I guess that’s my signature dish.

Denmark is famous for many different things (one being the happiest nation in the world!). But what do people not know about Denmark that you think is interesting, or just that you love about the country and culture?
Our winters are among some of the darkest, coldest, wettest, and most annoying times of the year. It’s not really that fun to live in Denmark during the dark months of the year, and I wouldn’t recommend tourists to come here during this time. However, Danish summers are just amazing, and the country comes alive during this time unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. So if you’re planning to go somewhere for the summer, go to Denmark. You won’t regret it.

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