TW Interviews: Chrissie Wellington

Britain's greatest ever triathlete, Chrissie Wellington reveals her deep-rooted fear of losing and the inner strength that propels her to victory

Do you think you can set another world record at Challenge Roth next year? How much faster do you think you can go on that course?

Possibly a couple of minutes faster, there's time to be made on the bike. It would be tough to go faster than I did on the run. [In 2011 she set a new world record of 2:44:35 on the run].  

Last season you were focusing on improving your run, which discipline are you concentrating on next season?

I'm hoping to improve across the board, but I want to focus on new challenges as well. I might do a stand-alone marathon or another endurance-type event as well as Ironman. You've always got to improve across the board. It's not just swim, bike and run, it's improving the way you rest and you can always hone your nutrition strategy; you've got to see it in a holistic sense. My bike needs a lot of work I think.

What are your biggest weaknesses and strengths across all three disciplines?

My weakness is my inability still to rest my mind or switch off, that's the mental side. Physically, I've got very weak hamstrings and glutes, so that's a very specific biomechanical weakness which I've been working on and that's definitely helped in the latter stages of the marathon. My bike handling can be improved - there are 32 corners at Challenge Roth and I'm losing time on each of them and all the descents. That doesn't require any additional fitness, but it does require additional skills and it's up to me to learn those and to develop them.

Do you get nervous when Tom's racing? Have you ever watched him race?

I've never watched him race from the sidelines because we often race at the same time, that was the case at Ironman Arizona and at Kona. I don't get nervous for him, I just really want him to fulfill his potential and I think the best is yet to come. It's so great to share the experience with him and know the person you love is on the course, and to sometimes cross each other gives you a big boost. It's awesome to see how much he has achieved in such a short space of time and to share that whole journey with him, not just the race.

One of our readers wanted to know if you ever switch off from being Chrissie Wellington the Ironman triathlete to just being Chrissie Wellington?

Everyday. It's almost like I have to switch on to being Chrissie Wellington Ironman triathlete whenever I'm around the media or at a race. I'm just me, I'm the same as I always have been and I hope I haven't changed too much. On a day-to-day basis I don't have a red carpet, I have to cook and clean and wash my own clothes and drag my bike box through an airport. It's still very surreal to think that people put me on this pedestal and see me in those terms. It's important to stay grounded and keep a healthy perspective.

What are your guilty pleasures? How do you switch off from anything connected to sport?

Ordinarily I'm really regimented in terms of when I get up, when I eat and when I go to bed. I think as someone who's a control freak, breaking the routine is a guilty pleasure. That doesn't sound like much but going out to dinner with friends, sharing a bottle of wine, staying up late, maybe running slightly later than I'd planned - I don't call them guilty pleasures, because I don't feel guilty for it, but I think breaking the routine gives me pleasure. For a little while at least, and then I crave the control again.

Do you feel disappointed that there isn't an Ironman event at the London Olympics next year?

I've been asked this quite a few times. Kona is my Olympics and I feel l've got the equivalent of four Olympic medals through my victories there. It's where the best of the world in my sport meet and that's what happens at the Olympics. But, the Olympics is the biggest sporting stage and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to have an Olympic gold medal around my neck, any athlete would dream of that. I would love to see long-distance triathlon showcased at the Olympics, not least because of the profile it would give triathlon.

Which athlete inspires you most from any discipline or sport?

The late Jon Blais, who had ALS  [Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a rare neuromuscular disorder] but who still managed to complete Kona, though he sadly died a few years later. Any athlete who manages to overcome adversity is inspirational to me. I worked last weekend with the Challenged Athletes Foundation and just seeing the children and athletes who are overcoming huge physical challenges, but yet who show such courage, strength and determination, is a lesson to us all. They are the people that inspire me. 

What's the best piece of coaching advice you've ever been given?

Be kind to yourself.

What race would you recommend to our readers if they had to add just one race to their diary next year?

In terms of long distance triathlon races, Challenge Roth and Alpe d'Huez Long Course Triathlon are both phenomenal races. I'd advise people to do something that takes them out of their comfort zone and makes them test their limits a bit more. If you've done a 5K, enter a 10K; if you've done a half-marathon, enter a marathon; if you've done a marathon, maybe try a triathlon.

I've read that you take a copy of the poem If by Rudyard Kipling with you when you race, is that still true?

I write it on all my water bottles. I take the copy that Brett [Brett Sutton, Chrissie's former coach] gave me, the dog-eared photocopy and I take it everywhere.

Why does that poem mean so much to you?

I think it encapsulates everything it takes to be a good person and a good athlete. Often my biggest disasters have been bigger stepping-stones to future triumph and that's what Kipling means by seeing triumph and disaster as one and the same. I like the line, "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, To serve your turn long after they are gone." To me that means using your mind to overcome any bodily discomfort you may be experiencing and to retain self-belief and confidence. That's what I try to do whenever I race.

Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington is published in February by Constable, hardback £18.99

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Discuss this article

Phenominal woman - truely inspirational. 
Posted: 16/11/2011 at 18:41

Congratulations Chrissie!

And thank you - for being you!

If.. you are ever beaten.. you are at that place where you can congratulate yourself for having inspired someone to have to try that hard and that long themselves to achieve that! (I'm sure you know that)

You have inspired me today. Thank you! 

Posted: 16/11/2011 at 23:10

A phenomenal athlete that deserves recognition for her utter dominance of her chosen sport.

However does being a phenomenal athlete entitle you to a platform to have your voice heard on any range of unrelated topics?  Personally I think not and that this is part of the "fame" culture of today, albeit Chrissie is a far superior role model than most other celebrities out there.

Posted: 17/11/2011 at 08:59

she is truly an awesome athlete

and somewhat akin to Darkness, I think she's in danger of becoming irritating with her "fame" as she's popping up like a rash all over the place at the moment - TV appearances, community runs etc. OK - she's milking herself for a variety of good causes and I applaud her for that but I wish she'd back off a bit at the mo as I'm starting to cringe at some of it. she needs a better PR person imho that can "use" her without going OTT
Posted: 17/11/2011 at 10:46

At least she's not resorted to the likes if "I'm a celebrity..."

Not yet, at any rate.

They should bring back Superstars (again).  She'd be dead good at that.

Posted: 17/11/2011 at 10:53

"Not yet, at any rate."

my point entirely - the danger signs are there though

she ought to appear on the Muppet show though..
Posted: 17/11/2011 at 11:11

Imagine her on Big Brother.  She'd go stir crazy in 20 minutes.

Posted: 17/11/2011 at 11:58

A quote from an article in the evening standard

"As professional athletes, we have a big responsibility that goes beyond performing and it's frustrating people neglect that," she added.

That's obviously what's driving her, and presales for her book?  

Posted: 17/11/2011 at 16:24

Yeah, don't get me wrong I'm pro-Chrissie and quite like seeing her pop up on Sky Sports news whilst I'm eating my brekkie... BUT... I don't remember these selfless community and non-tri-PR stints before she had a book to publicise.

Saying that, as a multiple champion and record breaker she can do what she likes! I'll buy the book. 

Posted: 18/11/2011 at 12:02

Is CW as good a triathlete as Beryl Burton was a cyclist?  Based on record I'd say not.
Posted: 14/02/2012 at 15:57

jelly bean wrote (see)
Is CW as good a triathlete as Beryl Burton was a cyclist?  Based on record I'd say not.

tough call .. but i would say that to be a stand out athlete like CW in these times is possibly a bigger achievement than it was in the 60's .. if for no other reason than there are hell of a lot more people to be better than.   Not sure what BB's swimming and Marathon times were like . Hell of a cyclist though i concur  
Posted: 14/02/2012 at 16:31

Chrissies ways been pretty pasionate and vocal about causes close to her heart Blazeman, Go tribal etc long before she had a book in the pipeline
Posted: 15/02/2012 at 13:43

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