Javier Gómez shoots for the top
Javier Gómez returns to the region for the season-opening World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. The winner of five ITU Triathlon World Championships, three ITU Triathlon World Cup titles, and silver medallist for Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics in men's triathlon, has a fine pedigree, but has been plagued by injury over the past couple of years. Now back to his best he tells Esquire what it takes to get to the top – and then stay there.
Tell us about your heart complication that stopped you from competing for a while
My heart didn't stop me; it was the federation that prevented me from competing. I checked with many doctors, I went to England to a famous heart doctor, and had to fight for my right to compete. It was a big battle trying to get my license back and a tough time.
What races are you looking forward to this year?
This race in Abu Dhabi is the first race in the World Series. So eight races around the world from now until September and that's going to be my main goal.
Are you nervous about it?
I've been doing this for well over ten years and you still get nervous - especially the first race when you’ve come from the off season and you haven’t raced in a while. You're not sure how fit you are and you don't know how fit the others are.
Do you show those nerves?
Well, many people try to look impassive but inside they're shaking. Everybody gets nervous before a race. It drives you to be better but at the same time you have to get focused on what you have to do and not let those feelings get the better of you. There's a lot of pressure. You train many months and you have two hours to get everything right, to make your fans and your sponsors happy. Also, it's quite a long race so there's a bigger margin for error.
So why do you do it?
Well obviously when you're racing you want to be the best. But also I always loved sport and I was lucky that I made it my job. So now it's really the same as when I was a kid but I have more responsibility and I train harder. But you still love what you do and that's why I do it.
The Brownlee brothers are big rivals. If you had to have dinner with one of them, who would you choose and why?
[Laughs] I think both of them. We’ve had dinner before because we raced for the same team in France, which is funny because there's obviously a big rivalry. But they are good guys; they love the sport, they love training hard, they love racing hard and even though there's a big rivalry there's a lot of respect between us.
How do you put up with the immense strain on your body?
There are many days where you are tired and don't feel like training. I just think of the goal, such as if I'm training for this race in Abu Dhabi, because I know how good it feels to win. And then there is the fact that I'm a professional and this is my job. I’m grateful for it because it's a great lifestyle even in spite of the training and travelling.
What advice would you give young triathletes trying to beat their personal best?
The most important thing is to learn the right techniques. You have a lot of time to develop your fitness in the future but learning the skills of the bike and running properly and especially on the water will allow you to be a better athlete in the future. Sometimes it’s hard to see when you’re a kid because you wanted train harder and beat the other guys, but it's important to do things right and learn those drills in order to be better in the future.