What do you do? What is your profession?
At the moment, I am a full time student at the University of Oxford doing a Master degree in Mathematics finishing in June 2015 - we'll see where life takes me after that!
How long have you been a triathlete?
I used to be a swimmer until 4 years ago, before getting hooked on triathlon
Do you think your education or your career has helped to prepare you mentally for racing?
I definitely think so! I love my degree, I love my sport, but each on their own would maybe get a bit much at times. My mathematics degree gives me the space and time to leave triathlon behind every now and then - and stops me from overthinking sessions or the next race.
Have you been an athlete all your life or did you have some sort of epiphany that got you into it?
I have a very sporty family - my mum was a cross-country skier and long-distance runner and participated in the Winter Olympics 1980 - so sport has definitely always played a big role in my life.
What do you do when you're not training or racing?
My degree gives me plenty to do when I'm not training (anyone that's been on a training camp with me before can probably sing you a song about it), but if I happen to not have anything to do for my degree, I love using those rare moments to spend time with my family and friends.
What’s been your worst moment in a race?
That might have to be Hamburg WTS 2014 where I completely messed up my first transition... I felt like a beginner all over again!
How did you overcome this?
There's nothing you can do about it - it's happened, it's in the past - just keep going and give it your all... Never give up.
Tell us the main differences you see between physical and mental strength.
There's no doubt that you need to be physically strong to be a good triathlete, but training isn't always easy (otherwise everyone would be as physically strong as the best in the world), it's mental strength that makes you train that little bit harder, that little bit better than the rest. And in a race, when everyone doubts you, it's mental strength that makes you believe in yourself and push yourself beyond your perceived physical limits. It takes physical strength to be good, but to be the best, you also need to be mentally the strongest.
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?
I always tell myself that I can't give up now, just a little bit further and it'll be better - and then a little bit further again... And then the thought of why I'm doing this crosses my mind, that I'd actually much rather be here, right in this moment of complete exhaustion than being unable to ever do it again - that usually keeps me going for a while.
How do you normally feel before the start of a race?
There is always a short moment of nervousness just before the start - telling me that I'm ready to go, that I want this. Before that, I am usually just extremely happy and feel privileged to be on the start line - the hard work has been done, now it's time to show what you've got.
In triathlon is it necessary to have inner strength? Be made of iron maybe?
I definitely think that us triathletes are a special breed - there's a saying that a triathlete is someone who doesn't realise that one sport is hard enough. It is also one of the few sports, where getting through it on its own is an achievement for a lot of people. I have great admiration for every triathlete out there - I remember one early Thursday morning when a friend of mine turned up to swimming still half asleep, because he had had to work very late the night before. Yet, he was still there, doing his best in the pool - not because he wants to be the best in the world, just because he wanted to be there and better himself. That's exactly what I perceive triathletes to be, the ones never just choosing the easy option (otherwise they would have gone for a single sport), but the right one, and I definitely think you need to be made of iron to do that.
- SOPHIA SALLER