As a coach I’ve been truly blessed. I don’t take for granted for a single moment how lucky I’ve been to work with some of the best triathletes of all time.
I know many excellent coaches who have dedicated their lives to their profession and are lucky to run into one champion. So meeting up with my former charge Emma Snowsill this weekend, arguably the greatest short course racer of all time (Olympic + 3 x World Champion) after the Angry Bird’s demolition defence of her Ironman 70.3 World Championship – while fielding a congratulatory text message from the current Olympic Champ, Nicola Spirig, does make one reflect on their good fortune.
It also has also prompted a lot of interest in who is the ‘best’ we’ve seen. Since Daniela Ryf’s performance this Sunday I have been asked consistently for comparisons with Chrissie (Wellington) dominance and where her development was at the same period.
I have said before and I repeat now, there will not be any public comparisons on Ironman ability until Dannie is able to win at least a Kona or four like Chrissie. She has not earned that right yet.
However, that is not to deny her deserved piece of history in being the first woman to successfully defend Ironman 70.3 World titles. Her dominant performance (winning by over 11 minutes) and her undefeated record of 70.3 wins over the last 2 years I believe puts her at the front of the conversation as to the best 70.3 racer we have yet to see. And that is my opinion.
The good or bad news, depending on if you’re a female competitor, is that if she can handle the pressure that her electrifying performances are now putting her under, then I believe she will continue not just to keep winning, but more importantly keep improving.
I personally rate Jodie Swallow’s amazing win in 2010 as a 70.3 performance of the highest quality. To lead all the way from a great racer in Julie Dibens, who was at the time dominating the event with a swim-bike combination not matched – blitzing the swim, backing it up with a huge bike split (done on a road bike) and then delivering the fastest run split was a huge wire-to-wire performance. And Jodie had that ability to pull out a massive performance.
Daniela on the other hand has the ability to consistently hit the huge performance not once a year, but as we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons 3 or 4 times a year. Winning by margins that put her several minutes over second place and often taking the fastest bike + run splits in the process. This for me puts her in a league of her own in terms of what we’ve seen over half iron distance racing.
In a 70.3 where technical bike skills are more prevalent and the fact that Daniela swims faster – I couldn’t see Chrissie dominating these races in the same way. More so with the WTC now looking for courses that have some technical aspects, which ensure on descents like at Zell the skilled riders are able to fly away.
Again, this is just my opinion and is not a comparison with full Ironman, which we know is a different beast.
This weekend was the first time I have noticed the strain of the press constantly asking about The Triple Crown $1 million and the World Championship bid at Kona take a slight toll. This will prove Daniela’s biggest opponent in the months ahead.
We both have a clear understanding of taking things one race at a time. We are keeping our mind on the fact we don’t race for money but for the glory of the sport. The testing of ones ability against ones-self.
This campaign she already overcame an injury scare that threatened to sideline what is growing to be a stellar year. Doubts crept in as she missed a couple of races and a few weeks of training, but Sunday’s performance should now put those doubts to bed. We will now wait and see the recovery from the defence of her World 70.3 Championship to decide on next steps. But there is no denying she is a stand out champion at this distance.
And she should be content (for about 10 seconds) that she put in a performance of the highest magnitude last weekend. As one of my mentors used to say: “played strong, done good.”