World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Edda Hannesdottir

by Ben Eastman on 29 Jun, 2024 11:09 • Español
World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Edda Hannesdottir

Life is pretty good right now for Edda Hannesdottir (ISL). When we speak as part of World Triathlon’s latest chapter in the Paths to Paris series, she is in Spain on training camp alongside several members of the Danish national team. Outside is a perfect summer’s day and looks like the latest step in what is shaping up to be a dreamlike couple of months.

After a string of podium finishes at Asia Cup races, Hannesdottir stamped her ticket to the Paris Olympic Games. In doing so she became the first triathlete from Iceland to qualify for the Games. 

“It’s a good feeling,” said Hannesdottir. “For me it’s been a long and hard journey, a lot of ups and downs. I feel very proud of my accomplishment and of myself and I’m thankful for all the help I got.”

From dark days…

In contrast to the sunshine of the summer of 2024, the situation was somewhat greyer and cloudier not too long ago. Injury trouble wiped out a large chunk of Hannesdottir’s 2021 season but she rebounded for the subsequent campaign.

“In 2022 I felt really motivated and I was really happy to race well. I felt really strong throughout the season. It was my first season racing almost only the WTCS so I felt like I was learning a lot and building through the season.” She gave a rueful shake of the head as she knew what came next. “It was very devastating to get injured at the start of 2023.”

At what seemed the worst moment for her Paris hopes, Hannesdottir found herself back under the surgeon’s knife with damage to the ligaments in her hip and down the right side of her leg.

“It took a long time to diagnose,” she explained. “With ligaments it also takes a really long time to heal.”

The result was that she had to take a year off from triathlon. Barely a season removed from her rehabilitation in 2021, she was forced to undertake the same road of recovery and watched as her nascent collection of Olympic qualification points seemed to shrink in comparison to the growing piles of others.

“I missed it a lot. It was really difficult and sad, especially with only a year to go until the Olympics. I had this dream and it seemed very far away when I started to race again at the start of 2024.”

When the Paris Olympic Test Event took place in August last summer, Hannesdottir was coming off the back of a surgical intervention in July and admitted she did not believe that she could be at the Games in less than a year.

“I remember sitting in a hotel bed and I thought ‘there’s no chance it’s going to happen’. I think because I was able to put it out of sight and really focus on taking it day by day and healing my body and trying to treat myself well, that really helped me.”

Throughout her journey back to full fitness, Hannesdottir has been able to count on the support of the Olympic Solidarity programme and help from the World Triathlon development team; she is a member of Team World Triathlon. The latter in particular pointed her to the right races and assisted her navigation of the Olympic qualification process.
“I feel really grateful to have had a lot of support from them!”

To better times

Entering 2024, the storm clouds of 2023 had started to clear and she was able to build carefully into the new season. Having lifted the pressure of Paris from her own shoulders, she said,  “I was able to enjoy what I was doing”.

She opened her season with a solid result at an Africa Cup race in South Africa. She did not take away a huge slice of points but simply racing again was a win. Then, her comeback shifted gear.

A win at the Pokhara Asia Cup boosted her points total and pushed her into contention for an Olympic universality place. Iceland is one of the eligible countries for such slots and to claim it Hannesdottir had to rise into the top-180 of the world rankings from a near-stationary start.

“I don’t think I really believed it could happen until the start of May. I really hoped to build on each race and that was my thinking going into them. I wasn’t sure of my shape going into them because I have some way to go until I’m back at top shape, but I was really motivated and really excited just to be there.”


After Pokhara came two further Asia Cup medals – a silver in Subic Bay and a bronze in Osaka – and the points began to flow. With three consecutive podiums under her belt, Hannesdottir climbed back into the top-180. What had appeared impossible became reality as she qualified for Paris. At the time of the interview, she was one of only three Icelandic athletes that had qualified for Paris across all sports and she hopes her example will inspire her younger compatriots to take up the sport.

A change of pace awaits her in the coming weeks. In addition to qualifying for Paris, she will be making her first WTCS start in over a year in Hamburg. Her last race of 2023 came at WTCS Abu Dhabi and as such Hamburg will represent her return to the top level of the sport.

“I’m equally excited and nervous, but nervous in a good way,” said Hannesdottir. “Last year I dreamt of being back in this position so I’m just grateful to have this chance again and the Hamburg race is crazy, the vibes are so exciting and there’s so many fans.”

“I had a really good race there in 2022 but I also have to remember I’m slowly coming back. I need to have that in mind that it’s a long journey and I still want to go until 2028. I’ve been swimming and biking well recently so I hope to build on that. You don’t know how it will feel until you start the race but I hope to have an open heart and learn a lot of things into Los Angeles.”

With Hamburg and Paris to come, then, Hannesdottir could hardly have asked for a better summer. After the dark spells the good times have arrived and Iceland’s star triathlete is determined to enjoy every minute.

“I am so grateful to be in this position and to have this opportunity, it’s just amazing!”

Article tags paris 2024 paths to paris
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