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Overcoming hurdles with heart and drive - Nooralotta Neziri's incredible example

In the latest episode of Aspiring High Performers podcast, I had the privilege of speaking with Nooralotta Neziri, a professional sprint hurdler.

Her story is one of resilience, determination, and the relentless pursuit of excellence, despite facing numerous challenges.

This blog post captures the essence of our conversation and provides valuable, extra insights for athletes, coaches, and anyone striving to overcome obstacles in their lives.

Nooralotta Neziri

Finding Purpose Through Adversity

Nooralotta’s journey into athletics wasn’t straightforward. Initially dreaming of becoming an actress, a tragic car accident changed the course of her life. Encouraged by her uncle, a former athlete, Nooralotta joined a local sports club to make friends, marking the beginning of her athletic career.

​Reflection Point: How often do unforeseen circumstances shape our paths in ways we couldn't have guessed? For athletes and coaches, this is a great challenge to embrace these moments when something "goes wrong" and seeing where that plot twist will take us.

Finding purpose through adversity can lead to unexpected opportunities for growth, like in Nooralotta Neziri's story.

The Finnish Spirit: Humility and Persistence

Throughout our conversation, Nooralotta highlighted the Finnish trait of humility. She described how this cultural aspect influenced her to stay grounded and continually strive for improvement, despite her success.

Question for Reflection: How can humility enhance an athlete’s or coach’s approach to training and competition? Consider the balance between confidence and humility in your own journey. You can think for example that which one would benefit your performance more right now - more confidence or more humility? 

Overcoming Physical and Mental Hurdles

Nooralotta’s career has been marked by significant injuries, including a stress fracture in her lower back and a foot surgery. These setbacks could have ended her career, but her mental strength and belief in her abilities kept her going. She shared how trusting her competitive head and focusing on her mental fortitude allowed her to overcome these challenges.

Insight for Athletes and Coaches: Building mental resilience is as crucial as physical training. How do you cultivate mental strength in your routine? Are you also preparing yourself for moments when something might not go like planned? Do you use strategies such as visualization, positive self-talk, and mindfulness practices in your training already? If you do, great.

If you don't or need any help deciding what to do first or how, maybe you don't know where to start or you feel already overwhelmed by the things you are already doing. In any case, feel free to email me at : saana@saanakoljonen and tell me more about your situation and where you would need help and I would love to help you out!

Body Image and Nutrition: A Journey to Self-Discovery

A significant part of our discussion revolved around Nooralotta’s struggles with body image and eating disorders. She candidly shared her experiences of restrictive diets and the eventual realization that proper nutrition and self-care were key to her performance.

Coaching Tip: If you are obsessing about food and your body and you just worry about it more than you would want to. Maybe you are constantly thinking about it and never really feeling satisfied, you are pushed forward by the fear of gaining weight or you stop eating before weighing or body fat percentage tests - I want you to know that it doesn't need to be that way. 

Education on this matter and the importance of listening to one’s body can change the course and get you back to better well-being. I am not a therapist or work with eating disorders but I have an awesome network. If you need any help, please reach out and I can share couple suggestions or for example a free training about body image. 


Balancing Career and Personal Life

As a professional athlete, Nooralotta faces the challenge of balancing her career with personal aspirations, such as starting a family. She discussed the societal pressures and lack of examples in Finland regarding athletes having children during their careers.

​Reflection: How can we create an environment that supports athletes in balancing their career and personal life? Is this something close to your heart too? Could you do something to help create more support for female athletes and starting a family? You can also consider the policies and cultural attitudes within your own sporting community. How are they?

Proving Yourself and Others Wrong

Despite doubts from others and the challenges she faced, Nooralotta’s belief in her potential kept her motivated. She emphasized the importance of having an internal drive and proving to herself that she can achieve her goals.

Takeaway: Self-belief is a powerful motivator. As athletes and coaches, nurturing this internal drive can help overcome external doubts and setbacks. Reflect on how you can foster a strong sense of self-belief within your team or training environment. 

BONUS QUESTION: What would you need to believe about yourself so you would believe in your abilities more? 


Nooralotta Neziri’s story is a testament to the power of resilience, mental strength, and the unwavering pursuit of one’s goals. Her journey offers valuable lessons for athletes and coaches alike.

By embracing adversity, fostering humility, building mental resilience, and promoting a healthy relationship with body and nutrition, we can all strive for our own version of excellence.

I strongly recommend listening to this episode from the Aspiring High Performance podcast if you found these topics interesting! Just hit the button below and it will take you to the pod! Happy listening! :)

PS. If you want to find more purpose and why also in your sport, check out the FREE resource HERE that many many athletes have loved! 

Saana Koljonen

​​P.S. Join my email community for more insights and stories from the world of high-performance. Click [here] to subscribe and let's connect our journeys of personal growth and professional excellence!

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Hi, I Am Saana Koljonen

CEO Of Authentic Excellence LLC

As a mental performance coach/consultant and a certified breathwork facilitator, I specialize in helping athletes and high performers overcome mental barriers and achieve greater success with better speed, joy and confidence.

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