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Posted: June 30, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this

Triathlon: The Danish Xpress, Torbjørn Sindballe, stopped by heart malfunction

During the Wildflower Triathlon in early May Danish powerhouse Torbjørn Sindballe ended his race hyperventilating in T2 after a very uncharacteristic bike ride during which he faded down the field with a drastically dropping HR and heavy fatigue. The Dane has known about an abnormal heart valve since 2005 and has had regular checkups to ensure he was safe to race. After the incident in California he has gone through extensive testing and evaluation with Danish experts. After considering their advice Torbjørn has decided to stop his career immediately

"The past months have been an emotional rollercoaster for my family and me. Going from world-class competition in the toughest sport in the world to fearing a heart surgery in the near future at the same time as your second child is born is an extreme experience” he said. “My wife, family, friends and sponsors have been a tremendous support in this process and the doctors have been outstanding in their evaluations. Based on the situation I feel good about the decision and can look back on an amazing career in an amazing sport."

"I am going to miss the lifestyle and the intense excitement of training and racing. Of course I’m sad that I will not get to see the impact of the big changes in my training we have made this year and that I will not be able to compete for the crown in Kona. On the other hand I am very proud of what I have achieved. Two ITU Long distance World Champs and a podium in Kona, where I am really not suited to race, is something I will carry with me forever. I have learnt so much and feel very privileged."

"There are so many people who have devoted their expertise, insight and inspiration to me and I will be them forever thankful. I have met countless truly amazing people in this sport and will never forget the time I have had with them. So many people have inspired me in my career and I hope I can give back in the coming years helping people realize their dreams in sport, family and worklife."

Torbjørn is sponsored by ECCO, Argon 18, Craft, Zipp, Sram, Oakley, Bell, HighFive and Xterra wetsuits.

Career highlights, Torbjørn Sindballe aka. Thunderbear
3rd place Ironman Triathlon World Championships, Kona 2007
ITU long distance World Champion 2004 +2006, silver 1999 + 2002
European Champion 2003
Winner of Ironman 70.3 California 2002+2005 and Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie 2006

More info on Torbjørn at

Facts on Bicuspid Aortic Valve
Torbjørn Sindballe has what is called a bicuspid aortic valve. This is the most common heart malformation found in 1-2 percent of the population. It means that instead of three claps there are only two claps in the aortic valve that make sure blood is directed from the heart to the body and not the other way around. Most people with this malformation live their entire lives without ever knowing about it. In some cases complications develop including a tightening or a leak in the valve. The tissue in aorta can also be affected so that there is a abnormal dilation of the main artery.

Torbjørn has a moderate leak, which means that 20 percent of the blood returns to the heart for each heartbeat. During work the leak drops to about 5-7 percent, which means that Torbjørn has competed with a marked reduction in his capacity for many years. It is possible that further hard training and racing would increase the risk of progression so that heart valve replacement would be needed in the near future. Torbjørn 's aorta is moderately dilated, which markedly increases the risk of dissection under heavy workloads.

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