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As a two-time Olympian, 2014 Ironman 70.3 world champion, runner-up to the 2014 Ironman World Championship crown and Ironman Zurich and Ironman Copenhagen champion (both 2014), Daniela Ryf is hardly your average university student. But the 27-year-old native of Switzerland enjoys having a lot on her plate and hopes her pursuit of a degree in food science will someday lead her to develop foods geared toward enhancing athletic performance. Mentored by legendary coach Brett Sutton, the relative newcomer to long-course triathlon has inspired comparisons to former Sutton disciple Chrissie Wellington, and is a clear contender for future Ironman World Championship fame.
“I find it great how the Ironman athletes have a lot respect for each other and was surprised by the respect they gave to me as a newbie. It shows the character of our sport. I didn’t know many of them, and it was a great experience to meet athletes like Rachel Joyce and Mirinda Carfrae, [who] have been in the sport for so long. On the run in Kona, Chrissie Wellington supported me with some positive words. This was probably the most inspiring moment I had during the race. It meant a lot to me, as she’s been my role model since I’ve heard from Brett how tough she is. It’s my biggest goal to race like her one day—fearless and fast.”
“In St. Moritz this summer, Brett suddenly called me ‘Angry Bird.’ Apparently I make this face when I’m focused. I had no idea what Angry Birds is, so I checked it out online and found out that Stella is the only girl of the Angry Birds. Stella is described as ‘ambitious and loves taking [on] tough challenges. Hot tempered, gets bored when there’s nothing to do.’ This is pretty much spot on how I roll, so since then Brett has called me Stella or Angry Bird.”
“I believe walnuts are one of the best things to take on the bike. I had them in Copenhagen and also in Kona after about 90K. The fat and protein seem to help stabilize the sugar in the blood, and also help with concentration. I take about 50 grams, which is almost 300 calories. I had them going up the last bit of the hill toward Hawi, which brought me a bit out of breath, but also helped to get back new energy. I also prepared them for the run, but then I was running too scared to eat anything. I barely had any gels on the run, which probably was my biggest mistake of the day.”
“The best ideas I have for foods are on my long rides or two-hour runs on an empty stomach! For Kona 2015 I have a new idea for the aid stations—frozen banana on a stick, covered in dark chocolate and salt. That’s the perfect combination of something nice and cool, the energy of the banana, the fat and sugar of the chocolate and the salt so you can leave out the salt tablets. The implementation might be a challenge, but I’m sure [Ryf’s sponsor] Red Bull could sponsor some portable countertop freezers, so the aid stations could hand them out on the run course.”
“I love to spend quality time with friends and family. A good glass of wine, nice coffee, going to the movies or a day at the lake with them is on the top of my list. And I love nature, so I guess I picked a pretty good job for this.”
“To be honest, I don’t think I have had to sacrifice much for sport. Of course I had less free time when I was young, as I was busy with training, but I met great friends at my triathlon club, Wildcats. I trained with them every weekend in Basel [Switzerland] since I was 14 years old. We trained hard, but we also went out on Saturdays. The others were older, but I could sneak in the clubs with them! Through the sport I have been able to pay for most of my things by myself since I was 16, and by the time I was 20 I had seen half of the world.”