Triathlete Sara is pushing her limits: ‘I am afraid to swim in open water, but my motivation is bigger than fear’
Sara Van de Vel (25), a triathlete from Belgium, used to be a runner until she sustained a foot injury. She decided to start cycling and now she’s hard to beat on the bike. During the Ironman at Cozumel, she had the best cycling time. She finished third.
It all started with a triathlon starter kit she won on Facebook. Sara: “It was funny to win the starter pack because I would never sign-up for something like that. The price motivated me to do my first sprint. I wasn’t a good swimmer, so I did the 750 metres with the breaststroke. Of course, I had to cycle very fast to keep up with my competition. I tried very hard and I ended up finishing first.”
That race was only the beginning for Sara. She has competed in a lot of different triathlons since that day and the upcoming year will be her second season as a professional.
There’s only one obstacle for Sara to overcome.
“I feel anxious about swimming in open water. Before my first competitions, I stood on the side of the water, just thinking about all the things that could go wrong.”
What things were you thinking about?
“I was afraid of the unknown in countries like Mexico, South Africa, and Dubai. Thinking of dangerous fishes or seaweed. But I always get over it in the end. My motivation is so much bigger than my fears.”
That’s great! What’s keeps you motivated to compete in triathlons?
“I can push my own limits and be proud afterwards. That’s why I love being a pro now, but only part-time. Becoming a fulltime pro is very difficult.”
Is there a triathlete that inspires you?
“I try to look at myself mostly. What are my goals, and what can I achieve? But now you ask, I do follow Lucy Charles. She finished second in Kona this year, and she’s young, like me. I trained next to her in the
swimming pool one day. It was amazing to see how fast she can go. She was unstoppable.”
What are your goals in 2020?
“I hope to be selected for the World Championship in New Zealand. The selection is very difficult, so I have to train very hard and win an Ironman 70.3.”
What tip would you like to give other triathletes?
“It sounds dull maybe, but just try to enjoy your race. Let go of all the stress. Everything will go so much easier if put on a big smile and try to enjoy what you are doing.”
You can follow Sara on Instagram below.
Read more true stories
- Tristan Olij: ‘Winning is all about the preparations you are willing to do’
- Thomas Sijtsma on his first Ironman: ‘I mostly remember the heat and triathletes lying next to the road’
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Photo: Mario Vanacker