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Edda Hannesdóttir set to make history as first triathlete from Iceland to compete at Olympic Games

10 June 2024 – In our series on Olympic Solidarity scholarship-holders on the road to Paris, Iceland’s Edda Hannesdóttir explains how she has overcome serious injury setbacks and the obstacles of being from a small country as she chases her Olympic dream.

Edda Hannesdóttir has just received the amazing news that she will be on the starting line of the triathlon event at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 in less than two months’ time. “Obviously, it’s huge for me,” she says. “Having the chance to be the first Icelander to participate in the sport of triathlon is a huge thing. It’s been a dream of mine for a couple of years now, and I will do everything I can to hopefully fulfil that goal.”

Hannesdóttir’s dream is now within sight, after she recovered from two major injuries and competed around the world for the ranking points needed to be in consideration for a place at Paris 2024. However, the challenges she faces are not just restricted to the field of play.

There is little funding available for triathletes in Iceland, which has a population of around 377,000. As a result, Hannesdóttir is often required to pay for her flights and accommodation for competitions, and normally travels alone. This can put her at a disadvantage compared to triathletes from countries with greater resources, who often attend competitions with a significant entourage in tow.

But Hannesdóttir’s progress is now being aided by a scholarship from Olympic Solidarity.

“There’s no chance I would be able to do this without the support of the Olympic Solidarity scholarship. Coming from such a small country, we don’t have a lot of public funding that goes toward sports. It’s just extremely difficult to support yourself. There are also fewer chances for sponsorships that give you financial resources.”

Edda Hannesdóttir – Olympic Solidarity scholarship holder

“So, for me to have access to something like Olympic Solidarity means that I am actually able to not work a lot or even work at all, and I’m able to just focus on what I need to do to be fit and ready. I’m able to travel to races to collect points for the Olympics. It means everything, because I would not be here without it, 100 per cent.”

Overcoming injury

It’s not been an easy journey for Hannesdóttir, who underwent surgery twice in the past four years. Although she would rather have been competing during this time, Hannesdóttir admitted she learned a lot during her time away from sport. She explained how she attacked the rehabilitation process for her first injury “aggressively”, but realised on the second occasion that it was better to prioritise her physical and mental health.

“With my first bout of injury, I was not thinking in that way, probably because I was really anxious about the injury,” she said. “This time around, I have felt it really change and develop me as a person and an athlete. When I started to race again this year, I did feel mentally stronger and really calm in myself. I think that’s something that I learned from my injury – when I was injured, I really needed to just take it one day at a time. Sometimes that was hard – as an athlete, you always think about the next goal. It’s not fun to live just one day at a time. But it really helped me, because on race day I’m just thinking about what I’m doing in the moment.”

Now, Hannesdóttir is able to let herself dream about competing at the Olympic Games. “I would say I’m still building up towards full fitness,” she revealed. “I would want to be a little fitter by now, but the dream is to bring my fittest self to the start line.”

Balancing other interests

When she first received the Olympic Solidarity scholarship, Hannesdóttir – who has a degree in political science and has previously worked as a journalist – admitted she found it difficult to spend time on her other passions away from triathlon.

“I felt like I needed to invest 100 per cent of myself and like I needed to be working 24/7,” she said. “I always needed to be thinking about my training. Or after my training, I would need to still be thinking about my training or what was coming. I have really had to learn how to manage that. It didn’t come easy for me.”

Over time, she has realised the importance of occasionally taking time away from the sport. “I’ve always been super interested in politics, history and society in general,” she said. “I chose to go with triathlon, but I would say I still enjoy reading the news. I did work for a little bit as a journalist and was focused on writing political articles or about political aspects of society. My focus has mostly gone to triathlon in the last couple of years, but I still hold this side of me fondly and try to nurture it as much as I can.

“I feel like I have developed incredibly as a person and I don’t think I would be where I currently am – as a person, not only as an athlete – if it hadn’t been for this dream of the Olympics. It really has taught me so many things that I will always have inside of me.”

Edda Hannesdóttir – Olympic Solidarity scholarship holder

Over 1,300 athletes supported through Olympic Solidarity

A total of 1,331 athletes from 159 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), covering 26 sports, received Olympic Solidarity scholarships for Paris 2024. Olympic Solidarity aims to ensure that talented athletes of all backgrounds have an equal chance of reaching and succeeding in the Olympic arena by providing crucial funding to help finance their Olympic dreams. With a particular focus on the athletes and NOCs most in need, individual scholarship-holders receive financial support through monthly grants that contribute to their preparation and qualification for the Games, whether in their home country or at a high-level training centre.


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