Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Ander Irigoien, Spanish triathlete on sporting career and self-motivation

Posted on 20 May 2020 by Maitane Alaña Place
Photo by Ander Irigoien

The triathlon is an individual multisport race based on endurance, where participants compete in swimming, cycling and running and where the transition times also count towards the general classification.

Ander Irigoien started competing six years ago, after quitting rowing and after a friend suggested he had a triathlete’s body. “I didn’t quite know how this sport worked, but I took part in my first event and loved it”, he says.

Photo by Ander Irigoien

And for not knowing this sport, he is now part of ANB Triathlon Team and competes in Triathlon 70.3, being 70.3 the miles travelled and are known as ‘half-iron mans’. This team was founded in 2016 with the idea of creating a professional team with athletes from all over Spain.

“We are six athletes from various parts of the country and my coach, Emilio Aguayo, is from Valencia, where we spend a couple of months each year.”

They are not all professional, but Irigoien does focus exclusively on his sporting career. He trains from three to five hours a day, every day of the week. “I swim six days a week, three or four I cycle, I go to the gym twice a week and I run another three or four days”, he explains. “My favourite part of it is the running, I feel free.”

Embed from Getty Images

Triathlons are thought to have existed since the twentieth century, when the first race was organised in France in 1901. But the first modern swim-cycle-run race was held in San Diego, California in 1974, and it was accepted as an Olympic sport in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

In such a tough competition, athletes also have to train their mental health. “When I’m tired, I think of all the work I’ve put into it. My dad is always on the sidelines and it’s for him that I finish”, Irigoien says. It’s nothing new that athletes should separate their emotion from their physical effort, work with their cognitive evaluation to reach the finish line.

In the world of triathlon, or in Spain precisely, Irigoien chooses what races to attend. “The three I’d chosen so far have been cancelled, so I don’t know what I’ll do next.” Organised by the Spanish Triathlon Federation, Irigoien competes in the Spanish Cup for Long and Medium Distances, which give him points towards a general ranking. “My aim this season was to rank in Top 15 or Top 10”, he explains.

But he also explains that cities and towns can also put on a competition, where athletes pay and get an economical prize at the end. “There’s a parallel competition in each province, such as the Basque tour.”

Photo by Ander Irigoien

Uncertainty of COVID-19

Due to the current situation, races have been cancelled or postponed, such as the Hawaii Ironman. In Spain, the federation has announced they will postpone them to September or October or cancel this year’s editions.

“I don’t need any extra motivation during lockdown, because luckily, I love sport”, he admits. This situation has been new to everyone and sporting clubs have had to readapt their training routines.

In the case of ANB, the group competes on their bikes in an online game to keep up their good physical shape. “Our coach is thinking of different ways of training and we are very happy.”

In overall, “we train for fun, because as we don’t know when we’ll compete again, we can’t injure ourselves.”