Olympians Find Success At Long-Course Racing

  • By Kim McDonald | Inside Triathlon Features Editor
  • Published Aug 28, 2013
  • Updated Jul 29, 2015 at 5:01 PM UTC
Javier Gomez. Photo: Larry Rosa

Debut Long-Course Wins

Iván Raña
2002 ITU world champion
Race: 2012 Ironman Cozumel
Notable: Course record 8:15; ran 2:44 marathon

Bevan Docherty
2004 silver and 2008 bronze Olympic medalist
Race: Ironman New Zealand
Notable: Course record 8:15; swam 2.4 miles in 45 minutes; ran 2:49 marathon
Beat: Cameron Brown, a 10-time winner of the race, by 19 minutes

Helle Frederiksen
2012 Olympian
Race: Ironman 70.3 San Juan
Notable: Course record 4:11; biked 56 miles in 2:16; ran 1:25 half-marathon
Beat: 2012 Ironman and 70.3 world champion Leanda Cave and 2010 Ironman and 2007 Ironman 70.3 world champion Mirinda Carfrae

Lisa Norden
2012 Olympic silver medalist and 2012 ITU world champion
Race: Challenge Fuerteventura, half-iron-distance race
Notable: 4:26 finish on hilly course; beat closest competitor by 7 minutes

Brent McMahon
2004 and 2012 Olympian
Race: Ironman 70.3 St. George U.S. Pro Championship
Notable: Ran 1:13 half-marathon on hilly course to finish in 3:51
Beat: 2012 Ironman 70.3 world champion Sebastian Kienle

Javier Gomez
2012 Olympic silver medalist, 2012 Xterra world champion, 2008 and 2010 ITU world champion
Race: Challenge Barcelona, half-iron-distance race
Notable: 1:11 half-marathon off hilly bike; beat closest competitor by more than six minutes to finish in 4:05
Beat: 2007 and 2010 Ironman world champion Chris McCormack by 11 minutes

RELATED PHOTOS: Javier Gomez’s Banner Year

History’s Greatest Triathlete?

While Javier Gomez didn’t win triathlon gold in London, losing to Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee in the final miles of the run, his dominance in ITU, non-draft races, Xterra and long-course races is unparalleled in the sport.

Last year, the Olympic silver medalist from Spain won the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in New Zealand, soundly beat Brownlee at the sweltering non-draft Hy-Vee Triathlon in Iowa, and in his first off-road triathlon came up with a surprise win at the Xterra World Championship in Maui. This year, he won the cold and hilly Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco as well as his first half-iron-distance race in May in Barcelona against two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack.

With such versatility and his now proven strength at the longer distances, could Gomez—who wants to win the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and says he’d like to take a shot at both Vegas and Kona—go down as history’s greatest triathlete?

“Javier is an aerobic animal,” says Justin Trolle, an ITU coach in Colorado Springs, Colo. “He doesn’t have many weaknesses. I’d love to see him race Kona. He’s so strong in the swim. He’s a really good cyclist. He’s very good in the heat and the cold—it doesn’t matter the conditions. And he’s such an efficient runner. In a longer distance, he would be a force to reckon with. If Javier does decide to switch over to Ironman, I would say he would be very, very difficult to rival.”

Two years ago, Gomez showed up in Kona to watch the race for the first time. He got on the Queen K Highway and pedaled his bike behind Craig Alexander, watching closely as Alexander suffered on the run course and stopped to massage the cramps from his legs before winning his third world championship title. “I was really excited to be there,” Gomez says. “And I realized, I saw, how hard that race is. Every Ironman must be hard, but that one especially in those conditions.” Gomez could race Kona this October if he wanted to complete a qualifying Ironman because he won the Hy-Vee triathlon last year. But he’s planning to wait until 2017 to avoid any training distractions before the Rio Olympics.

“I’m pretty sure I can go faster in Rio,” he says. “I know I can be in the mix, but if I want to try to win a gold medal, I need to go faster. And I think I can go faster.”

By faster, Gomez means run faster than he did in London. So starting this year, he’s been tailoring his swim and bike workouts around his run training. It’s not surprising, given that the man he calls the better athlete in August last year ran 29:07 in his gold-medal-winning 10K and even had time to high-five the crowd before finishing. Gomez made the mental calculation between Brownlee’s split and Gomez’s equally impressive 29:16 10K and estimates that “if I wanted to beat him [in London] I would have had to run 28:50,” which he says wasn’t possible then. “I wasn’t able to beat Alistair, but I was at my best level at that race of the year, and I was really happy with the silver medal.” So it’s back to the track in hopes of shaving 30 more seconds from his 10K time over the next three years.

“My training is based around the run,” Gomez says. “I’m trying to train like a runner, so I build everything else around it. … If you want to run in 29 minutes flat, you cannot also cycle 500 kilometers a week and swim too much. You have to sacrifice something.”

Now 30 years old, Gomez believes age won’t limit his ability to go faster at Rio—and he’ll still have time to tack on a second career in long-course racing after 2016. “Winning Ironman Hawaii is as important to me as winning the Olympic Games,” he says.

In Rio, he admits he’ll be facing stiff challenges from younger athletes such as Spain’s Mario Mola. “Only a few years ago, I was the young kid trying to beat the old ones,” Gomez says with a laugh. “And suddenly now there are all of these young kids trying to beat me. It is what it is. Mario will beat me one day. But if I can keep on improving, if I can keep doing good times on the run, I will be happy.”

RELATED PHOTOS: Behind The Scenes With Javier Gomez

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