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Daniela Ryf: The Ironwoman

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danielaryf
Ironwoman

With multiple Ironman world titles under her belt, Daniela Ryf is one of the world's best female endurance athletes. Discover how she went from amateur triathlete to world-beater

'In the beginning I thought, "Wow, sitting on a bike for so long, who does that?"'

What can you tell us about your journey to becoming a professional triathlete? I started early with sports and triathlon, was very independent early on and was always very motivated. I wanted to get better, was ambitious and then switched from short to long distance with the help of Brett Sutton. In the beginning I thought, 'Wow, sitting on a bike for so long, who does that?'

But it kind of just came to me and I really loved it.

What do you think it is about Ironman that suits you physically and mentally? The interaction of the three sports, constantly getting better and finding out what my body can do.

'Winning is relatively simple: I focus on myself in a race and try to be as fast as I can.'

In professional sport, the winning margins are usually very small. What do you think has given you the edge over your competitors that has seen you win over and over again? I don't always win. In 2019, I had stomach problems at Kona and that just showed that I'm not unbeatable. But it's relatively simple: I focus on myself in a race and try to be as fast as I can.

What keeps you coming back for more/what keeps the passion for competing in triathlon alive? The inner fire has to be there, of course. I noticed that this spring when some races started taking place again. After the long period without competitions because of the pandemic, that first race felt so good!

How has your attitude to racing and training changed from when you first started the sport professionally? I keep adjusting my training and I know my body very well. I know what I have to do and what is good for it and what is not.

'Being able to learn to control your thoughts in difficult situations is essential to achieve peak performance.'

If you could go back to when you did your first Ironman race or first Kona and give yourself any advice, what would it be? Go out there and do your best. I want to compete and be remembered and always make the best of the situation.

You're studying psychology so we particularly want to get your insight on how important mental preparation is in your training and pre-race build up? The mental aspect is definitely very important in long-distance racing. To understand why we make certain decisions in certain situations and how to train to make better decisions next time is interesting. The impact of our thoughts cannot be underestimated. Our body reacts and follows on what we focus on. Being able to learn to control your thoughts in difficult situations is essential to achieve peak performance and can definitely be trained. In your experience how important is sleep to performance and why? Sleep is the key to recovery and being able to train and push hard mentally. In intense training phases I sleep eight to nine hours per night as well as getting two one-hour naps during the day.

If you weren’t a professional Ironman triathlete, what do you think you would have done and why? It took me 20 years to accept that I actually was a professional triathlete, so for now I am happy with what I am and don’t think about what ifs.

To what extent does winning make you happy and what does true success look like to you? Winning gives you satisfaction but has nothing to do with happiness. Success as well has nothing to do with happiness. Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes. You can be successful and unhappy. Having a purpose in life as well being able to enjoy and share the special moments with people I like makes me happy. But performing at my best... that makes me happy.

Where would you like to be in five years? No idea. I'm too busy focusing on the now, for now!