In an almost empty swimming arena in Vejle, Denmark, Anton Ipsen managed to finish the 800m free event in the time 7:52.26, clearing the time requirement of 7:54.31 needed to qualify for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.

Anton was originally qualified for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but when these were postponed due to COVID-19, he needed to re-qualify.

Anton also holds the Danish national record of 7:48.74 from the 2019 World Championships in 800m free and is ranked 7th in the world in that discipline.

We caught up with Anton to check in on his Olympic dreams.

The cancellation of the Olympics back in April 2020 was a big gut blow to both my mental health and motivation. Everything that you have been working towards for four years was in an instant gone, and back then there were no certainty for the 2021 Olympics. 

I was left in a vacuum without power to change the situation, while feeling hopeless for my future career and livelihood. Thus, after the several reinsurances from the Japanese Government and the International Olympic Committee, it was a big relief to qualify and solidify a spot for the 2021 Games.  

Right after the corona pandemic hit Europe in early to mid-March every pool in Denmark was closed instantly until start June. I was lucky that the top 15 swimmers in Denmark could train in a private pool, so I did that. From there it has just been non-stop training at home without any meets or training camps. In a normal Olympic year, you would expect around 150-200 days of travelling – this year we will hit 30 Days! So, in the same way that work has been from home in the corporate setting, similarly have the athletes around the world.

The key here is structure, self-determination, and willingness from all parties to make it work. If it were not for my great colleagues and managers here at Novo Nordisk, and likewise when I attended university, I could not have performed as I have done at work, but also in the pool. Therefore, I am tremendously grateful for all the opportunities and supportive and inspirational people I have met during my time here.

I was fortunate enough to represent Denmark at the 2016 Rio Olympics at ended up around top 18. This time around my goal would be to represent Denmark and our flag in an Olympic Final in the 800m!

From day one, my managers have enabled me to work on challenging and interesting projects but also allowed to pursue this dream of the Olympics by allowing me the flexibility that word-class athletics sometimes demands.

This could - for instance - be to be allowed to work from both training camps and competitions around the world. The key to succeeding in this constellation is mutual trust and communication.

In this way, I have gotten the absolute best of both worlds. In my mind, Novo Nordisk is a place of well-managed inclusivity that allows employees to succeed and thrive.