For Herbalife-sponsored wheelchair racer Toni Piispanen, it’s about 20 meters into a race when he starts to get really excited. Why? “Because that’s usually the first time I notice that my competitors are behind me,” he says. It’s that winning attitude, fierce drive and optimism that have helped propel Piispanen to the highest levels of the sport, including his biggest win to date, taking gold at the 2012 international competition in London. As one of Finland’s most accomplished athletes, there is no doubt that his road to success has been paved with incredible challenges and hard work.
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In 1993, Piispanen was participating in a karate show when he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him disabled. However, not one to be hindered by such a thing, he boldly reinvented himself as a wheelchair rugby athlete, where he competed successfully for 15 years. The aggressive sport draws from elements of rugby, hockey, basketball and volleyball. It’s a game played by competitors who have physical disabilities that include at least some loss of function in at least three limbs and require the use of a wheelchair. In 2008, with the urge to take on yet a new challenge, Piispanen started wheelchair racing. “What drew me to the sport was that I had always been fast and dreamed big,” he says. “I had a chance to give wheelchair racing a try while I played rugby and realized that if I pursued it full time, I could potentially be the best in the world. It’s still what motivates me.” Motivation is key in wheelchair racing, as the sport has numerous unique challenges. “You really have to be able to generate power from the body and channel that power in the right direction,” he says. “That takes thousands of hours of training to perfect. You also have to be able to adapt to all kinds of weather conditions, such as rain and wind, and use a variety of equipment that is required for each type of condition.”
Focus on Nutrition
Key to Piispanen’s training and performance is high-quality nutrition. Ever since his accident, he’s paid close attention to what and how many calories he eats. When he started competing again, it made him realize that he needed to get more from nutrition, especially at the professional level. “I have to be healthy at all times so that I can train as much as needed,” says Piispanen. “I also have to recover well from my training sessions so that I can go into the next session feeling strong.” With all of the supplement brands on the market these days, Piispanen says he chooses Herbalife® products because he can rely on them to fuel his performances and they taste great. In addition, the line of Herbalife24® products is tested by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International, an independent, accredited organization. The NSF Certified for Sport® marking on certain Herbalife® products ensures that they have been rigorously tested for quality and are at a minimal risk for containing banned substances. Piispanen starts each day with vanilla-flavored Herbalife® Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix. Depending on his current training and competition regimen, he uses a variety of Herbalife24® products. He especially likes Herbalife24® Restore. “Restore allows me to combat exercise-induced inflammation and feel well-recovered the next day,” he says. He also supplements daily with Herbalife® Formula 2 Multivitamin Complex.
Since 2013, Herbalife has sponsored Piispanen, proving time and again that he is an exceptional ambassador for the Herbalife brand. He continues to actively promote his relationship with Herbalife and help bring visibility to the brand for both domestic and international sporting enthusiasts. Herbalife is proud to provide him with the support he needs to achieve his highest goals. “Herbalife is the strong, nutritional force behind my performance,” he says. “They ensure that I will have a great chance at winning a second gold medal.”
Toni Piispanen Career Highlights
• Espoon Tapiot “Athlete of the Year” – 2014, 2012
• European Champion (Swansea, Wales) in 100m – 2014
• Finnish Sports Gala “Athlete of the Year” – 2013
• World Champion (Lyon, France) – 2013
• Paralympics Gold Medalist (London) – 2012
• “The Sports Act of the Year” Award – 2012