Getting into triathlon “just happened by accident” for Germany’s 2019 IRONMAN World Champion, Anne Haug.
Born in Bayreuth, the Sports Science graduate from the Technological University of Munich started playing tennis at the age of five, inspired by her compatriot Steffi Graf.
Skiing, Judo, Volleyball and Badminton were among the other sports she took part in, and she even became a World Champion in the sport of Indiaca.
Anne used her skiing ability within Winter Triathlon competition, raced at the World University Triathlon Championships and won National Duathlon Championships in 2008 and 2009.
Turning professional at the relatively late age of 27 coincided with a significant step up in her performances. A first ETU European Cup win in early 2011 was quickly followed by an ITU World Cup podium in Mexico. Then a month later she was racing in the top tier of short-course racing, the ITU World Championship Series.
Haug was consistently outside the top 20 through that 2011 season against the world’s best, but fast forward a year and she had significantly raised her game.
She finished in the top 10 in seven World Triathlon races through 2012, and ended the year with second in Yokohama before winning the Grand Final in Auckland. An ITU World Championship Silver medal was her reward.
2013 was arguably even better with wins in Auckland and Hamburg and a Mixed Relay World Championship with the German squad. A frustrating 35th at the London Grand Final though resulted in only a Bronze in the year-end rankings.
Another strong performance in Auckland (second) in 2014 would ultimately prove to be the highlight of the next three years on the ITU circuit. Meanwhile 36th at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games signalled a new direction in her career.
After a few relatively lean years, Haug announced herself to the international long-distance community in 2017 by winning her very first IRONMAN 70.3 race with a blistering run to push Lucy Charles into second place in Lanzarote.
Anne was second two months later at the Middle East Championship in Bahrain, just 10 seconds short of catching the 2016 World Champion Holly Lawrence with the finish line in sight. Early indications were that she had the tools to star in what was for her a new format.
2018 would do nothing to diminish that belief that Haug was going to be a huge success.
Big wins at 70.3 Dubai and Oceanside, California preceded her first start over the full distance. Choosing home ground and the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt, she, like everyone else, was humbled by a truly exceptional performance from Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf.
It was a painful education perhaps, but fourth place was still enough to secure her debut at the World Championship in Hawaii.
Haug would face Ryf, Lucy Charles and the best long-distance athletes twice before the end of 2018. And both the 70.3 World Championship (South Africa) and at the big one in Kona would see a Ryf / Charles / Haug podium. There could be no doubt now that the German was challenging the best.
There is a consistent history across endurance sport of athletes being injured and then subsequently producing their best on their return. That trend may have worked for Haug in 2019.
Another close second to Holly Lawrence in the Middle East, this time in Dubai, kicked off Anne’s season in early February. Injury frustration followed however, and she headed to IRONMAN Copenhagen in August in need of a full-distance finish to validate her Kona start.
An incredibly impressive 8:31:32 course record in Denmark provided an 18-minute winning margin, along with the confidence that her injury worries were a thing of the past. Skipping the 70.3 World Championship, all eyes were now on Hawaii.
In Kona, Anne would arrive at T2 with a select chase group, almost eight minutes down on the pace-setting Brit, Charles-Barclay. With four-time champion Ryf out of contention, Haug was going to need her proven run speed if she was to win the day.
Haug wasted little time in making second place her own, and set off in pursuit of the Brit. Haug’s running had been consistently brilliant through her long-distance career, and it was not about to let her down. A blistering 2:51:07 marathon saw her take the lead at the 25km mark and Charles-Barclay had no response.
Anne’s famous victory completed a German double alongside Jan Frodeno, and for good measure, both share the same coach in Dan Lorang. It was a day none of them will forget.
Happy at home
In a global sport where travel is a necessary evil for some, Haug admits that she welcomes time at home. “Maybe it will change after my career,” she says.
Recalling that debut IRONMAN in Frankfurt brings back memories of Anne’s most painful experience in the sport. “I absolutely blew up after 10km on the run and thought I would never see the finish line,” she explains.
Not surprisingly, Haug loves running and admits: “I have a love-hate relationship with the water!” Perhaps that is due to one of her fears?
“I’m always scared of fish. I got attacked by one during my open-water swim and it was a nightmare!”
When asked if victory in Kona would change her life, Anne responded: “I don’t know… I hope not, I love my life like it is!”
Talented, determined, dedicated and content, she has found the keys to her personal success. And that suggests there is yet more to come.