October 1, 2021
“YOU HAVE TO BE VERY DISCIPLINED AND SACRIFICE A LOT TO BECOME AN ELITE ATHLETE”
Triathlon is a very demanding sport and taking on all three disciplines requires a lot of physical preparation. Add competing with a disability to this and it is an even greater athletic and personal challenge. Athletes such as Eva Moral, Susana Rodríguez, Dani Molina and Alejandro Sánchez have made triathlon their lifestyle, which they lead with passion and great dedication. Their extensive track records attest to this. Molina is a triple world champion and Moral, Rodriguez and Sanchez have each returned from Tokyo with medals around their necks. In this interview, the four ORCA ambassadors explain how they live, breathe and prepare for this sport.
Question: How did you get into triathlon?
Eva Moral: Sort of by chance. I have always been active in sports and when I moved to Valdemoro I found out that there was a triathlon club and I wanted to try it. The truth is that I was hooked from the beginning, it combined three sports that I have always enjoyed. Later, when I had my accident, which was also from cycling, I was sure that I wanted to continue doing sports, since it is so life-affirming for me. I discovered that paratriathlon existed and I didn't even have to think about it.
Susana Rodríguez: I came to triathlon by chance. I went to the FETRI's (Spanish Triathlon Federation) website to see how it had gone for triathlete friends of mine in a championship, and I found a tab that said "paratriathlon". I did not know that the modality existed and out of curiosity I clicked on it. A Spanish Duathlon Championship was on the calendar and as soon as I saw it, I thought about doing it as a challenge with the goal of finishing. It was a love at first sight.
Dani Molina: I also sort of arrived by chance. I started mountain biking with a triathlete friend and he convinced me to try it. My orthopedist made me a running prosthesis and I gave it a try.
Alejandro Sánchez: I came to triathlon after many years of coexisting with triathletes while we were swimming and training at the same pool. I always watched them or would follow different events and found it very interesting. In fact, it was clear that someday it would be the next step for me.
Q: What does this sport mean to you?
Eva Moral: Paratriathlon is my life. It is my profession, to which I dedicate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's my passion.
Susana Rodríguez: Right now, triathlon is a way of life for me because in one way or another, it is what colors my day-to-day life: training, friends, trips, goals, dreams, etc.
Dani Molina: It's my passion, my job, my life. It has given me everything, even though it has also taken a lot out of me. I believe that this sport owes me a debt called the Paralympic Games.
Alejandro Sánchez: Triathlon gave me back my enthusiasm for sports.
Q: What is training like for each of you?
Eva Moral: I train seven days a week of which I swim six, I alternate biking with the sports wheelchair, and I do at least four gym sessions a week.
Susana Rodríguez: My workouts are similar to those of any other elite triathlete with the difference being that I always train with my sighted guide athletes because I cannot see. I do about five swimming sessions a week, five cycling sessions, five running sessions and three gym sessions.
Dani Molina: I train like a normal triathlete without a disability. My coach, Dani Rodríguez, has planned everything for me since 2016 and I try to listen to him 100%, although sometimes I would like to train more!
Alejandro Sánchez: My workouts are set by Iván Muñoz, so I couldn't be more confident in how to do everything.
Q: How have you faced obstacles?
Eva Moral: With regard to how I have faced difficulty, I believe that in my case it has been never giving up and being clear in what my goals are.
Susana Rodríguez: Obstacles are faced with determination and with the assurance that if you struggle and strive to overcome something, it is highly likely that you will succeed.
Dani Molina: I have always tried to normalize these obstacles as much as possible and lead as normal a life as possible. I was fortunate enough to have had a second chance that I think I've taken advantage of.
Alejandro Sánchez: For me, the key is to face the obstacles, whatever they are, with a positive attitude and while thinking about how I will solve it or rise above the situation.
Q: Are there limits in the world of sports or can mental strength overcome them?
Eva Moral: They say that we set our own limits. The mind does actually do a lot, but it is also true that you have to be very disciplined and sacrifice a lot in order to become an elite athlete.
Susana Rodríguez: In the world of sports and outside it, there are limits... It's part of being human and we can't ignore it. However, mental strength and hard work can make these limits more distant.
Dani Molina: Limits exist, of course, but I always say that everything is in the mind. If you want it, you can do it. But always use your head. We only have one body and we have to take care of it and know what our limits are.
Alejandro Sánchez: Of course there are limits, but trying to find out where they are and get closer to them is the way we grow and improve.
Q: What do you do to stay motivated?
Eva Moral: My motivation is to dedicate myself to what I am passionate about and to have very clear goals.
Susanna Rodriguez: As soon as a dream comes true for me, I am already forming another one in my mind.
Dani Molina: I am a triple World Champion and I am always asked where I get the motivation to continue training when I have won almost everything. I always give the same answer, to be World Champion again and, why not, one day be an Olympic Champion.
Alejandro Sánchez: To stay motivated, you have to do what makes you happy and do it with enthusiasm. You can always find something to motivate yourself with events, challenges or competition... from small, everyday things to the most important competition you can enter.
Q: After winning an Olympic medal, what is the first thought that crossed your mind?
Eva Moral: The first thought that came to mind was of my family. And all these years of preparation. And so much happiness, I just can't even explain it.
Susanna Rodriguez: My first thought was of everything and nothing all at once. If you're an athlete, you might dream of someday becoming a champion or an Olympic Champion, but it being a reality is something you cannot even imagine and it's just so crazy.
Alejandro Sánchez: The thought that crossed my mind, or rather the feeling, was that of complete satisfaction. Thinking that we gave it our all on this journey, the event went perfectly and we got a medal. Lots of happiness.
Q: Together you all hold several titles, including World Championships and Paralympic medals. What is your next challenge?
Eva Moral: My next goal, the closest one is the European Championship that we have coming up at the end of September. Afterwards, I will focus on the next season, but I won't deny that Paris 2024 is already on my mind.
Susanna Rodriguez: My next goal is to prepare for the 1500 m in the 2022 World Championship to see how far I can go in the race. As the dates line up well with triathlon, that is something that motivates me for a post-Olympic year.
Dani Molina: In the short term, the European Championships in Valencia and the World Triathlon Championship Series in Abu Dhabi. More long-term, the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Alejandro Sánchez: The next goal is to continue improving and to maintain the level we have reached with Paris 2024 only 3 years away.
Q: How important is a supportive environment to achieving your athletic goals?
Eva Moral: My family and my partner, Ángel Salamanca, are vital to my athletic performance. They understand me and support me 100%. Otherwise, I think it would be very difficult.
Susanna Rodriguez: A supportive environment is invaluable, beyond measure. This is an individual sport, but the coach, family, physiotherapist, doctors, sports psychologist, support athletes... each has their place in this.
Dani Molina: Fundamental, without them I would not be who I am and I would never have achieved everything I have achieved.
Alejandro Sánchez: Support, like what you at Orca provide us, is reflected in what we have achieved. Us three athletes and you went to Tokyo and we brought home a medal. When you have the support and trust of someone who allows you to work hard and do your best, then you end up with results.
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the world of adapted triathlon?
Eva Moral: Have fun and enjoy it! Of course, they should know that you have to train a lot, but it is worth it.
Susanna Rodriguez: My advice is to enjoy yourself and never to think of what you're doing as "adapted" triathlon. This is triathlon, it is a sport, and if you want to see progress and achieve your best, you have to train like an elite athlete. Triathlon is a unique sport.
Dani Molina: Have fun, take it easy. Soon enough, there will be international and important competitions and there will be plenty of time to suffer then.
Alejandro Sánchez: To enjoy pain and to let go of their fear of competition.
Congratulations to these four elite athletes, ORCA ambassadors, who have proven that an athlete can go far in this exciting sport through their effort and determination in the face of difficulty! Their athletic careers will undoubtably continue to deliver successes as a result of work well done and a passion for triathlon.
ABOUT EVA MORAL, SUSANNA RODRÍGUEZ, DANI MOLINA AND ALEJANDRO SÁNCHEZ
Eva Moral has competed in triathlons since 2012 with the Tri-Val club of Valdemoro and she did athletics before that. In September of 2013, she suffered a fall on a cycling route through the Sierra de Madrid that caused a spinal cord injury. Among her extensive athletic achievements, she has been Paratriathlon Spanish Champion and European Champion, and she won first place in the Madeira World Cup. At the Tokyo Paralympic Games, she won the bronze medal in her category.
Susanna Rodriguez returned from the Japanese capital with a gold medal. Rodríguez was born with albinism and a 90% visual impairment. Since childhood, she has combined her dedication to sports with her passion for medicine. In 2008, when she did not place in the Paralympic world cup, she decided to transition from athletics to triathlon. She combines her profession with training. She has been a triple World Champion in adapted triathlon. This year she made the cover of the prestigious TIME magazine for her dedication in the fight against the pandemic.
Dani Molina is fully dedicated to paratriathlon. It is his work and his passion. When he was 22 years old, he was in a serious motorcycle accident that almost cost him his life. He lost his right leg below the knee and underwent 14 operations and one year of recovery before he could walk again. He has a brilliant track record, which notably includes having been World Champion, European Champion and Spanish Champion for two consecutive years, in 2017 and 2018.
Alejandro Sánchez already knew what it was like to participate and win a medal at the Paralympic Games. In 2008, he won the bronze medal in Beijing in breaststroke and has now returned from Tokyo with the same metal for triathlon. He also participated in London 2012. After surviving a motorcycle accident in 2004, he lost mobility and sensation in his right arm. He spent many years swimming competitively until he became a triathlete in 2014. His dedication and tenacity have yielded excellent results.