The 31-year-old Olympic silver medalist (2012) from Pontevedra, Spain, is one of the most diversely talented triathletes the sport has ever seen. Known best as a three-time ITU World Champion who dominates that racing format along with the Brownlee brothers, he followed up his Olympic silver performance with a win at the prestigious Hy-vee Triathlon, also winning the 2012 XTERRA world title in his first-ever off-road triathlon. He defended at Hy-vee in 2013, won Escape from Alcatraz and finished the season as the world champion of the ITU series. While a pair of victories at two early-season half-iron-distance events—2014 Challenge Barcelona and Ironman Panama 70.3—have established Gomez as a viable threat on the non-drafting long-course scene, Gomez will continue to focus on ITU racing through the 2016 Olympics. After Rio, you may very well see him chasing another world title—this time on the shores of Kona.
As told to Julia Beeson Polloreno.
– When I was a child I was focused on swimming, and I trained in my hometown pool, where the local triathletes did as well. They encouraged me to try it, as they knew I liked running and cycling even though I was only a swimmer. I did [my first race, an Olympic-distance event] when I was 15 years old. I finished second, and the winner was Ivan Raña. After that triathlon, on the same day, I did an open-water race and won.
– My parents always encouraged me to practice sports. I started playing soccer, then swimming, and I spent many early mornings at the pool before school. I really appreciate what my parents did for me—waking up very early to take me to the pool, and sacrificing weekend/leisure time for me traveling to competitions.
– At the 2012 Olympics [in London] I went for a warm-up run about four hours before the race. Hyde Park was already very crowded and I thought there was another competition. I was wrong—the people were there just to get the best spot to watch the race. I knew it was going to be an amazing race. We had the biggest crowd ever in the sport of triathlon.
– My main goal is the 2016 Olympics in Rio, so I won’t fully make the switch to non-drafting racing before then. That said, I really like non-drafting races, and I would like to see some of these races in the ITU World Championships Series.
– I am not the kind of person who has idols. But one of my favorite sportsmen is Rafael Nadal. I like his mentality, respect for rivals and sportsmanship, and I’m lucky I had the chance to meet him personally. He is such a nice guy. He is very competitive—we went for a ride and he wanted to be at the front of the group the whole time despite the fact that he does not ride very often. When I was a child, surfers Rob Machado and Kelly Slater were idols, too. Also the great cyclist Miguel Indurain.
– Even though Yokohama is not my favorite race, I like Japan: its culture, the food, the people. They are so respectful and polite, and always make you feel comfortable. I would like to go back and visit the country without the pressure and commitments of racing.
– I like racing in the U.S. most—I like the early-morning starts, the atmosphere. I feel a bit less pressure in non-drafting races than in the ITU ones, where races are more stressful and a mistake in the swim can make you lose the race.
– On average I spend 200–230 days per year traveling. I do not complain about it; sometimes it’s tiring but I like traveling and getting to know new places.
– The more tired or forced you are, the less you will think about the sprint strategy. Normally I try to stay as calm as possible, analyzing the different factors, such as wind direction at the finish line, if it’s flat or a bit hilly, and then recap to myself the things I did in training to be faster in the sprint. Keep shoulders up, lift knees as much as I can, etc. My opinion is that the sprint is won by the athlete who is fresher and more determined, not the faster one.
– If you want to win the Series you have to be solid and fast the whole year. I am not happy with the calendar that the ITU did this year. It makes no sense to start racing in Oceania, South Africa and Japan, then go to Europe to race, then in the middle jump to the U.S., then back to Europe, and then the Grand Final is in Canada, with a race in Stockholm the weekend before. With this schedule it is very hard to train properly to stay in your best shape. It’s actually hard to stay healthy.
– I would separate my triathlon heroes into two groups: the ones from when I was a child and I haven’t had the chance to race, like Dave Scott and Mark Allen, among others. Their epic battles in Kona have inspired all of us. The other group is the triathletes I have raced with: Greg Bennett, Simon Whitfield, Ivan Raña and Bevan Docherty. They are bit older than me, and when I was a junior I looked up to them. When I met them they really treated me with so much respect and were very generous in sharing some good advice for my first races at the elite level. I still have to suffer them as rivals though!