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Spaniard Javier Gomez Noya sits down with Triathlete to talk about the tumultuous 12 months that cost him the 2016 Rio Olympics, but earned him his eighth career world championship.
There are few athletes in world any classier or more humble than Javier Gomez. Over the weekend, the 34-year-old Spaniard claimed his second Ironman 70.3 World Championship title—the eighth world title in his illustrious career—after a blistering 1:10:30 half-marathon propelled him to overtake the impressive swim/bike performance turned in by Olympian Ben Kanute in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could be still competitive,” says Gomez. “I was happy for that, way happier than other victories I’ve had in the past.”
Triathlete caught up with the five-time ITU World Triathlon Series world champion, three-time ITU World Cup winner, 2012 XTERRA world champion and now two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion to talk about life after an Olympic-ending training accident ended his bid to one up his 2012 London silver medal.
“Last year was pretty tough breaking my elbow just one month before the Olympics, but I guess at this point of my career I can deal with those things a bit better than in the past because I have more experience,” Gomez told Triathlete. “I know it was very unfortunate and I was really sad about it. I know it is part of the sport and sometimes happens. I know other years I was really lucky and won world titles when it looked like I couldn’t win them.
“At that time I had to deal with the bad luck and an accident like that,” he continued. “I just decided I wanted to be back and wanted do well this year, and for me it was very important first to race the 70.3 in Dubai and then the first [ITU World Triathlon Series] in Abu Dhabi and I won both of them and it was a massive boost of confidence.”
What was worse, is it was a freak injury that probably shouldn’t have ever occurred.
“It was after a bike ride, like literally 100 meters from home,” Gomez explained. “Somehow my chain got stuck and I felt like I was going really slow but unfortunately I broke my elbow [pointing at the injury on his left arm].
“For a couple of days I was really disappointed, really mad,” he continued. “But then you accept it and it’s part of the sport and it’s the first time I broke a bone in my life on a bike crash. When you race for 20 years it’s going to happen.”
One of the most decorated triathletes of all time found himself on the outside looking in with a two screws embedded in his elbow. It was an Olympic Games he almost tuned out completely, but didn’t.
“I realized the Olympics were not going to happen and this year is over,” he explained. “In the beginning I wasn’t sure [I would watch], but in the end I was like ‘I love this sport and I want to see what happens so I didn’t think at all about what would I have done if I was there or not—the first thing to win a medal is to be on the start line and I wasn’t.”
For Gomez, who would later endure illness and further injury, 2017 was all about short-term goals leading towards hopefully a bigger picture.
Gomez has been on fire since his comeback, with ITU wins at WTS races in both Montréal and Des Moines en route to the 70.3 win in Tennessee. Now a shot at a sixth ITU world title awaits on the horizon in Rotterdam.
“I have a race in six days in Rotterdam for ITU to be world champion,” he said. “It would be great, but I am realistic as well and I know Mario Mola (ESP) has more chances than me and he is leading with a few more points than me.”
Gomez currently trails the fellow by Spaniard by 340 points heading into the ITU Grand Final in the Netherlands.
“I just have to try and do my best race there,” he said. “I’m not sure how it’s going to go after this race and the trip in between. Like always, I will give my best and see what happens. To win my sixth world title would be awesome, if not I’ll be happy still.”
Speaking of happiness, Triathlete asked Gomez about his Olympic silver medal. In light of discovering just how fragile an elite athlete’s career exists, did he now view that result as a triumph or a failure.
“Yeah, I think it helped me the fact that I had won that medal before and I was five-time world champion, so my career was pretty good until now,” he admitted. “So I am going to miss the Olympics and I had my chance to win a medal and that’s the way it is.
“I’m really happy with my career so far and I knew I was going to come back and I keep enjoying what I do.”
So what about 2020 Tokyo?
“I don’t know, it’s still quite far away,” Gomez shared. “Next year I might try some longer stuff and see how it goes. If I like it, if I enjoy that type of training … if not I can always come back to Olympic racing and make it to Tokyo probably. Now I will focus my career on longer distances—I’m not that young anymore.”
And for a man that has literally almost done it all in his sport, is there one—just one—standout moment throughout it all?
“Maybe 2013, that sprint finish with Jonathan Brownlee in Hyde Park was pretty intense after seven races around the world, the world title is going to be decided in the last few meters in a sprint finish in London when your rival is British,” he said. “[That] was pretty special.”
Listen to the complete interview below