Daniel Molina is a Spanish Paralympic triathlete. After he lost his leg in an accident in 1997 at the age of 22, sport became his focus for recovery, both physically and mentally
He reached Olympic level in Athens in 2004 and was semifinalist in the 100 metres backstroke swim. He is 12 times Spanish champion in this category and 12 times Spanish champion in the 200 metres free style, 100 metres free style and 100 metres breaststroke. He also won a gold medal in the 100 metres backstroke at the International Open in Germany in 2003.
Since 2012 he has become totally involved in triathlon, and in September 2013 he won the Paralympic Aquathon title in London.
What do you do? What is your profession?
I studied technical architecture, but now I'm a professional triathlete.
How long have you been a triathlete?
I started competing 2 years ago. My first race was in May 2012, The Madrid World Cup.
Do you think your education or your career has helped to prepare you mentally for racing?
I think the education I received from my parents since being a child has been really important in my sports career. I have learned to finish everything I started.
Have you been an athlete all your life or did you have some sort of epiphany that got you into it?
I've practiced sports all my life. When I was just 3 years old I was already swimming. My parents have always loved sport so they have always encouraged us to practice all kind of sports (tennis, windsurfing, skiing...).
What do you do when you're not training or racing?
When I'm not training or racing I like to relax, go to the cinema and have fun with my family, friends and girlfriend Carol. When I'm on holiday I try to practice all those sports I'm not able to practice during triathlon season.
Do you have other hobbies?
In general I love all kind of sports. Apart from that I also like watching movies, both in the cinema or at home.
What's been your worst moment in a race?
My worst moment was last year in the World Cup in Madrid. I fell off my bike and broke my elbow... I tried to finish, but it was impossible... It was a really hard moment, as 2 weeks later I had planned to compete in the European Championship in Turkey and I couldn't.
How did you overcome this?
Mainly thanks to the support of my family, trainers and my girlfriend, who was always there in good and bad times. In those difficult days it is really important to have someone on your side that cheers you up. Injuries are always hard but they are also part of the job and we have to learn to deal with them.
Tell us the main differences you see between physical and mental strength.
I think mental strength is more important than physical strength, especially in sports like triathlon. I've always said that you can be really well trained physically, but if your mind isn't so well trained, it won't work... I had a trainer when I was getting ready for the 2004 Olympic games that always told me that sport is 30% about training and 70% about the mind. A tough and well trained mind is able to do anything you ask it to.
When competing, what holds you back, what are you most afraid of?
I'm not afraid of anything when I'm competing but I respect what I do. If I had to mention a moment when I feel something similar to fear it is just before the start of a race, I think that is the hardest moment for me.
What's the most rewarding feeling you have ever had?
I have many... The first one was when I completed my first triathlon after just a few months training, but the greatest one was when I won the Aquathon Championship in London in September 2013. Being on the podium in a world championship is a unique moment.
When you feel you can't go any further, when you want to give up, what goes through your mind? What does your body tell you and what does your mind come back with?
When I feel I can't go further I think of all the time I've been training for that moment. That helps me going on swimming, riding or running even harder. Sometimes your body asks you to stop, but your mind tells you to go on.
When you are struggling with your energy levels, what do you do, how you overcome it?
I try to think positive things and try to remember the training sessions where I have felt really well. That helps me go on.
What does concentration mean for you? What role does it play when you train or compete?
I think concentration is basic in sport, both when training and competing. When you're doing something it is important to concentrate. Each training session is important for completing the final goal.
How do you normally feel before the start of a race?
For me it is always the worst moment, I always ask myself "what am I doing here?". Fortunatelythat feeling lasts only a few seconds. When I enter the water, it disappears and I just think about competing and having as much fun as possible.
Is it possible to overcome absolute exhaustion through sheer concentration alone?
Absolutely. You have to be able to concentrate and forget about exhaustion. The mind is really powerful and when your body tells you to stop there's still a lot of energy inside you. Concentration is what makes the difference. [MEL: this seems a little extreme? Is there any way we can tone it down? May be seen as encouraging athletes to push themselves to an injury??]
What is your mental strength?
My motivation is very simple. When you suffer an accident at the age of 22 like the one I suffered, and you see death so close, you think of how lucky you are, being where you are and doing what you like. You give thanks for having that second opportunity and you try to use it as much as possible.
Do you behave differently in your life and during a race?
No, I behave in the same way. I have to set goals both in real live and in competitions.
In triathlon is it necessary to have inner strength? Be made of iron maybe?
I consider myself to have a strong inner strength and that helps me achieve my goals. I think I have a strong mind. If being made of iron means fighting for your goal and nearly always reaching what you propose to yourself, then yes, I'm made of iron.
Your worst enemy is your mind?
Of course, your mind rules over you. If your mind says no, there's nothing you can do. I think it's the worst enemy of an athlete and that's why I think it's important to control the mind in every situation.
What is your greatest enemy in a competition? What do you want to defeat?
Myself, my own limits
Tell us what the stages are which a triathlete experiences during a race. How do you overcome each of them?
For me a triathlon is divided into multiple stages. The first one is the start of the race, with the nerves and anxiety of the moment before entering the water. The second one is when you start swimming, the disorientation you have when you exit the water and just before you start riding... You feel your legs don't follow you and you're not able to feel them until you ride some kilometers. The next one is the second transition. For some people is the hardest moment of the race, but in my case it is what I do best and when I feel better. And last, the arrival to the finish line, the best of all the moments. In every one of these stages I try to be as positive as possible. I know that oppression in the beginning of the swim will disappear and I'll start swimming smoothly, that when I start riding that the pain in my legs will go away, that when I have almost finished my bike ride the only step left is the run, and lastly, when I am reaching the finish line I try to have as much fun as possible.
What is the difference between a win and defeat? For you, what is more important?
I think that winning and losing are both important, as is not always possible to win, and you have to learn from your mistakes. You have to analyse the errors and try to correct them for the next time. The most important thing is to have fun in what you do.
What structure does a race have in terms of the level of sensations? What do you start with, what do you end with, and what do you experience along the way?
In the beginning excitement and anxiety, during the race pain, and fun and when it's finished. Andeuphoria.
Do you have thoughts of escape during a competition? Can you describe them?
Only before I start the race. After that I try to have fun.
- DANI MOLINA
Paralimpic Acuathlon World Champion and 2X 2nd Paralimpic Triathlon World Championship