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It’s been a hard year for Javier Gomez. Expectations were high for the 39-year-old Spaniard as he announced his intentions a few years ago to retire permanently from short-course racing—where he had a dominant career—to focus entirely on long-course events. Though the silver medalist was no stranger to the half-iron distance (as proven by his two 70.3 world championships in 2014 and 2017), he had hoped for more than his 11th-place finish at Ironman World Championships back in 2018.
Despite the best of intentions, 2022 wasn’t going to be the year for his big long-course breakthrough. “I got sick and tested positive for COVID the day before traveling to St. George for the IM World Champs. It was hard because I went from being in the best shape of the year to spending 10 days at home, completely sick,” Gomez said. “Then, when I tried to come back for training my body was not responding well. The cardiologist saw that COVID had affected my heart, and I needed to take it easy for around three months to make sure I recovered properly from it.”
Gomez is no stranger to heart issues, as the Spaniard fought his own country’s federation when a cardiac condition showed up on a routine scan and the Spanish Sports Council withdrew his license in 2000 due to “an abnormal heart value,” Reuters reported back in a 2008 article. So it makes sense that he would be cautious now.
“With [the situation this year], my main goal for 2022 is to recover well, then the racing plan will follow,” said Gomez of his year on pause. “Beyond that, I am definitely very motivated to prove myself and train hard to give my best as a long-course athlete.”
With some time to reflect on his storied career, Gomez has come up with seven things he’d like to go back in time and tell the 20-year-old version of himself—the Javier Gomez who won Under-23 World Championships back in 2003.
Take these seven tips and apply them to your own training for a world-champion-level boost, regardless of your Olympic status:
- Get In, Outside – “I’d have introduced more open-water swim sessions in training. You can be a very good swimmer in the pool, but in open water everything is more even, swim technique is not as important.”
- Be Strong When Weak – “Focus on your weakness. The most important thing is to work specifically on what you consider to be your weakness against your competitors. I used to lose every sprint finish I was in. With my team, we decided to carry out specific work in this aspect, and after a while, I managed to win some sprints that have given me the greatest moments in my sports career.”
- Harder Not Longer – “If you want to improve on the bike, introduce specific series and interval work on the bike trainer. Volume is not everything. This comes from my last year of training focused on long distance.”
- Don’t Be Afraid of The Start Line – “Race as much as you can. Most of my career I was advised by my team to reduce my number of competitions during the year. However, I did not listen to them too much, and I am happy I did what I wanted. Recently, I have not been able to race as much as I would like due to different circumstances (pandemic, injuries, etc.), and I really miss it.” (Ed note: Gomez has 132 starts in his 21-year draft-legal career alone.)
- Strength In Numbers – “Surround yourself with good training mates. The best memories of my career are sharing training sessions with my training partners from around the world.”
- Turn Off Tri (At Times) – “Do not focus too much on triathlon. I recognize that I have been too obsessed on training and racing, and my general mood was related to how my training was, or how my last race was. But life is more than that. When you are not training, just switch off your mind, disconnect from the sport and enjoy your family, friends, etc.”
- Listen To Yourself – “Look after your body, respect the rest and recovery periods. When you are young, you think your body can absorb everything. However, nowadays some parts of my body are really hurt. If I could go back in time to my youth, I would have done more physio, and stopped training when I was hurt.”