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Professionalism in Triathlon: Response to Van Vlerken

Daniela Ryf at one of the multiple pre-race media commitments at Challenge Roth.

Hi Bevan, When you’ve been such a warrior throughout your career as Yvonne has, and is struggling for form and recovering from an exhausting event – it’s probably not be the best time to vent grievances when the cause of the real frustration lies elsewhere. But it is symptomatic of the problems the sport faces at the top level of performance. A situation where you have “professional” triathletes complaining about their competitors being too professional:

Challenge Roth is a world class sporting competition. It is not about the ‘buzz’ and pre-race drindl and pasta parties.

You don’t see Roger Federer or Rafal Nadal spending ‘5-6 hours’ the day before Wimbledon around the grounds to soak in the pre-competition atmosphere and you won’t see Daniela doing it either.

Challenge wants the best athletes at their number one event. They also want them to prepare to be at their very best for when the gun goes o!. So no-one, including the organiser’s, are going to apologise because the world’s best prepares and executes her build up to be ready for giving 100% race day.

As for my personal view; many professionals in triathlon tend to get lost between viewing triathlon as a competitive sport vs. triathlon as a lifestyle hobby. And because the long distance version of triathlon hasn’t figured out a sustainable model for the pros yet, the latter to some extent is inevitable. But without the former the sport is lost.

Daniela’s nickname is the Angry Bird for a reason. Just as Caroline Ste!en’s was Xena. They are warriors. I point out to all our followers, we can’t all be smilers. The Bird is intensely focused on her performance and that is part of why she has cranked out three of the ten greatest female race performances of all time. She will not be changing that.

And instead of complaining about it, maybe some of her competitors might want to take a harder look at how a champion goes about preparing for their race. She took longer than anyone else for her swim warm up? Boo hoo. Observe Alastair Brownlee pre race and see if he doesn’t exert a bit of authority. Officials were there on the start line.

Our age group athletes will never show any respect for our pro athletes while they allow the hoopla and hype of an event to affect race day performance. If Daniela starts to do that, she will need a new coach.

Of course the irony of all this is that only reason she was racing in Roth at all was out of respect for the race and her fans. She was not ready. She is not fit. She raced still recovering from injury against the wishes of her coach. She had the slowest last 25km run of her iron distance career – showing great physical and mental courage to get the job done out of respect for the event and fans. That should be applauded.

Instead, we have a witchhunt on social media because they had a shot at the Champ at her worst and still weren’t up for it. It’s not for those standing off the dais to be lecturing those on top of it about professionalism.

Racing is war. The great ones understand it and love it. The good ones understand it and hate it. The rest we leave to themselves.


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