Rudy Von Berg has made a name for himself in the world of triathlon. As the son of a former professional triathlete, Rodolphe Von Berg senior, Von Berg grew up watching his father race Ironman World Championships in Kona for the first time at the impressionable age of 5. Then 9 years old. And again at 13. Each time watching his dad race grew his own passion for the sport and now, at the age of 27 and still yet to make his iron-distance debut, Von Berg is still chasing that dream.
Suffice to say, Von Berg has long term perspective: the dream to race Kona became a goal when he was only 12. Growing up watching his dad, participating himself as a kid, racing through university and into the pro ranks, and now a competitor among the best in long distance triathlon, Von Berg has been consistently progressing toward his goal almost his entire life. Although he had to mature into long distance racing, Von Berg says throughout all the years of his development, “the dream has always been Kona.”
Having the same dream, it’s natural to wonder if Von Berg ever felt pressure from his father. “My dad is pretty intense,” Von Berg says. “He’s not the type of guy who says, ‘it’s ok, you did your best.’ He’s always struggled to be more of a ‘friend dad;’ he’s always more focused on the technical aspect and performance side of it.” While he says his mother helps balance that out, he also came to realise that his father’s mindset doesn’t work for him. “He overthinks things. In professional sports and triathlon, that can be negative in some areas,” Von Berg explains. “If you’re overthinking, you can almost become crazy. If you want to have a long career, and you’re too intense all the time, you’re just not going to make it.”
Figuring out who he is in triathlon outside of his father’s experience started when Von Berg moved to Boulder, CO for college at 19. “When you move out of home, you start knowing yourself better,” Von Berg says. “In those years I developed more my own way. It’s still developing.” Who he is as an athlete is still grounded in discipline like his father—he even maintained 16-20 hours of training while he was studying—but Von Berg has an attitude that is more relaxed and accepting: “focus on the process and not worry too much.”
“Food is a good example,” Von Berg continues. “You can eat everything pretty much. It’s important to eat well overall, but for me, it would be really hard if I had to eat perfectly constantly. I don’t think you have to eat perfectly,” Von Berg says, adding that he really loves dessert.
Von Berg does admit at times he can be hard on himself but, “when I was young my parents called me the philosopher,” he says. “I’m really good at relativizing everything so I feel like I’ll never let things get to me so much that it will mess up a race,” he says. As a pro athlete, he says he is “never really satisfied” but he doesn’t have any regrets. “In the end it’s just triathlon,” he shrugs. “If you’re not happy doing it, then what’s the point.”
Von Berg is yet to make even his iron-distance debut (he hints to Ironman France in 2022) leaving Kona even further in the future but, with a blazing trail of results and titles to his name from decades within the sport, he is already well on his way to being the athlete he wants to be and making the Kona dream his own. Winning Kona might be a driving force but, Von Berg adds, “I also hope that I can inspire other people to go for it and follow their passion”—like father like son.