In Profile: Daniela Ryf, Switzerland
When Daniela Ryf made her international triathlon debut in 2003 she immediately started to turn heads. At just 17 years old she finished fourth at the Junior European Championships and sixth at the Junior World Championships. The very next year she was crowned European Junior Champion on home turf in Lausanne, Switzerland.
2008 was a breakthrough year for the young Swiss athlete, including her first World Cup podium in Madrid, first World Championships medal in Vancouver and an Olympic Games debut. She now stands out as one of the ones to watch as triathlon moves on from Beijing and starts to look forward to the Olympiad of the London Games in 2012.
Having based herself in the warmer climes of Australia during the winter, Ryf started 2009 with the same energy she finished 2008. She took second place at the OTF Oceania Championships, over the same course that will be used for the Dextro Energy Triathlon - ITU World Championships Grand Final, and continued her success with two podium finishers during the world series. She enters the final race of the year ranked number four with aspirations of lifting the world championship trophy.
Q. You enjoyed a terrific 2008, winning the u23 World Championships and going to the Olympic Games. Did you think you would be so successful? What were your aspirations starting the year?
A. 2008 was a truly awesome year for me. I didn’t expect to race so well and so I was very surprised when I started the season finishing in the top 10 three times. Because of that I was very motivated and worked harder than I had ever done before. I spent a lot of time abroad in training camps, and these helped me to focus on training and continuing to improve. It was also a year full of new experiences, racing and travelling, as well as starting with a new training group.
Q. The 2008 World Championships race will be remembered for the freezing conditions. Can you talk us through the race, what you were thinking, and how you dealt with the cold?
A. I tried to prepare myself mentally for a very cold race and was thinking about all the possibilities of what I could wear on the bike to keep warm. Because of this, and the pressure of the media, I was very nervous before the race even began.
The swim was actually not too bad as I knew what to expect. The first laps on the bike were alright too, but after three of the eight laps I started to get really cold. My focus changed to just getting through it and keeping myself as warm as possible by doing some work for the group. Thankfully I managed to unclip my helmet in transition with cold fingers, but as I soon as I started to run it felt like I had no feet. It was not a race I can look back and say I enjoyed; it was more a race of survival and getting through it as fast as possible. I think it helped me to be a bit scared of the conditions; it meant I was expecting the worst and there were no surprises.
Q. Going to your first Olympic Games at such a young age must have been an amazing experience. Were you happy with your seventh place finish?
I tried really hard to get away on the bike, but I couldn’t. As we started the run I didn’t expect too much because I knew I wasn’t one of the strongest runners so to finish in seventh place was very pleasing. I didn’t think I could run that fast, it was much more than I expected.
I like to train and get fit for one big race even if there is a lot of pressure. I felt prepared before the Games because I knew I had got the best out of myself in training. Knowing this I was really looking forward to the race and could enjoy it.
Q. Can you talk through your training group, coach and training locations? How was winter training in Australia?
A. I was in Australia from the beginning of December 2008 until the start of the new season, training with my coach Darren Smith, and eight other international training partners such as Lisa Norden and Kate Roberts.
It was a great Aussie summer, living in a flat in Palm Beach, trying out the coffee shops along the coast, and getting some hard training done. The atmosphere was more relaxed compared to last year when I was under a lot of pressure to make the qualification standard for the Olympic Games. I was really happy with the work I did over those months and I am looking forward to racing in Gold Coast.