Math Genius Turned Olympian: Anna Kiesenhofer

The most hard-working, unconventional, and inspirational cyclist in Tokyo

Klara Zietlow
4 min readSep 14, 2021
Crossing the finish line 🥇(Source)

The average cyclist at the Olympics will have a whole team of people backing them up. From personalized nutrition to training plans to race registration, everything is taken care of. All the athlete has to do is show up and compete.

But this year, the winner of the women’s road race at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics had none of those things. She was a math postdoctoral researcher at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland who hadn’t even been on a professional cycling team since 2017.

Anna Kiesenhofer.

So how did this person who no one knew about before the race end up beating the list of favorites to come out on top with a victory?

Anna’s Story

Without a team to arrange things for her, the lecturer had to get creative with how she trained. She spent every spare moment learning the best ways to train, how to fuel her body with the right nutrition, and how to mentally prepare herself for grueling races.

In interviews, she says that even her family knows nothing about cycling so although they support her, they’re unable to provide her with coaching or technical advice.

“I dare to be different,” Kiesenhofer says. She embraces that she has a different, far more unconventional background than most cyclists and uses her problem-solving skills acquired from math to solve issues that arise with cycling.

If this isn’t unconventional, I don’t know what is 😂 (Source)

By doing all the jobs herself, she can better understand what works for her personally and adapt her training to how her body feels on a given day.

Balancing her athletic pursuits on top of her researching job was difficult, but she had set her mind on this vision and wouldn’t stop at anything to achieve it.

This is the difference between commitment and interest. Interest means you’ll do it when it’s convenient. Commitment means you’ll accept no excuses, only results.

At the Race…

On July 25, nerves are running high. The weather is humid, blistering. The race has a list of favorites, but she’s not one of them. And yet…She blows the world away with her cycling performance.

She managed to complete the sweltering ride almost 2 minutes faster than the second-place winner! (Source)

Not only did she win the gold for Austria, she won by so much the cyclist behind her didn’t even realize she had come in second place!

What we can learn from her

I first heard about Anna Kiesenhofer from Brandon Jennings when he used her as an example of an activator to encourage TKS students to start taking action.

When put in Anna’s situation, most people would have just shrugged it off as a childhood fantasy or determined it impossible because she was too busy or didn’t have the support of a professional team behind her.

Instead, Anna faced the challenge head on and showed that the only thing stopping you from achieving your goals is your mindset. Her unconventional success was only a result of her unconventional path.

Celebrating her success with the medal (Source)

Her strong figure it out and experiment mindset pushed her to constantly perform at a higher level because of how well she nailed down the fundamentals like sleep, nutrition, and health. Without these often overlooked basics perfected, a person won’t be able to perform to their fullest potential and will always be behind.

Anna Kiesenhofer relentlessly experimented with the way things were done until she found a way just right for her.

What I find most impressive though is that throughout all this she still follows through on her commitment to giving lectures at the university! She’s insanely hard working and stays true to her word.

What’s one thing you’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t taken action on? Understand what’s stopping you from moving forward (ie. fear of failure, judgment of others, lack of experience), then ask yourself if it’s really that big of a blocker. Could you use this apparent blocker to your advantage like Kiesenhofer?

If someone came to you for advice with this vision and situation what would you say?

Now, what is one action you can take right now to get yourself closer to that goal? 🚀

Hey! Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed and were inspired by this article. My name is Klara and I’m a 14 year old super passionate about STEM. I’d greatly appreciate a few claps and a follow here on Medium! I write articles about all sorts of topics from inspiring people (like Anna Kiesenhofer) to the latest advancements in tech and science. You can connect on LinkedIn and subscribe to my monthly newsletter as well. Until next time! ✌



Klara Zietlow

Passionate about the future of food and the environment. Likes animals too :)