Last year the highly anticipated duel between Daniela Ryf and Mirinda Carfrae failed to materialize when the Australian was hit by a car three days before the race and resultant injuries forced her to withdraw on the bike.
This year Ryf raised questions regarding her Kona readiness a month and a half before the race. She pulled out of Ironman Frankfurt early on the bike due to hypothermia, and then decided to race historic Challenge Roth soon thereafter. After coming within 4 minutes of Chrissie Wellington's Iron-distance world-best time, Ryf went to work to validate her Kona entry one week later at Ironman Switzerland and produced a smashing 8:51:50 victory. Impressions that she was a Superwoman faded a short time later when the Swiss superstar finished 4th and she failed to defend her title at the Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Australia. “I tried to push but my legs wouldn't go,” she said.
An ordinary star might have descended into a long slump, but not Ryf, as she confidently reports a full recovery and sounds eager for battle with Ironman World Championship women's race record holder Carfrae and other top rivals Melisa Hauschildt, Jodie Swallow and Heather Jackson.
ST: Why did you choose to go to Roth - not a Kona qualifier - when your race at Ironman Frankfurt went south?
Daniela Ryf: For me it was important to do a race I enjoy, a race I like. It was a race that was always on my bucket list. That's why I decided to do it. I am really glad. It was a challenge because I had to do both races on order to qualify for Kona.
ST: Were you hoping to break Chrissie's Iron-distance world best time - 8:18? You were just 4 minutes off.
Daniela: I was not trying to do that at all. I didn’t think I could go that close to Chrissie [She] is amazing. She is a legend. What she achieved is pretty incredible. That I could go that close to what she did was a big surprise for me and it made me very proud. And to see her there to congratulate me and talking to her was for me very emotional. It was a day I will never forget.
ST: How did you go 8:51:50 one week later at Ironman Switzerland - not an easy course?
Daniela: I just did it. CHUCKLES.
ST: Were you tired from all those races when you went 4th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds?
Daniela: Well I don’t know. My legs definitely didn't feel great at Mooloolaba. I am not sure that was the reason. After that of course I did quite a bit of work with massage and everything to make my legs even a bit better. I have been better since then. Much better. Otherwise I was surprised I recovered fairly well. A few days later I could train again and run again. So it didn't feel like it broke me. It felt like it made me stronger. Just had to loosen it up first.
Ironman Pro Press Conference moderator: A few weeks ago at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship you were there favorite as the defending champion. But it didn't quite go according to plan. Was that just a clever poker move on your part?
Daniela: No I would never do that. I gave my best on that day and it was a day not to forget. It was a day I actually learned more than maybe the year when I won. It happens often from the days that don’t go perfectly. One thing I am taking away from that race is that on the bike I tried to push but my legs wouldn't go. I didn’t think you could really win the race on the run. So I wouldn't try. That was a big mistake. In my head I gave up a bit. Yeah I will never do that again.
ST: Any regrets at losing a chance at a second Million Dollar payday?
Daniela: No not at all. I gave it a try. Yeah I won it once last year. Next year is another year. So I am very happy with my situation. I couldn’t be more grateful for what I could achieve last year and also this year.
Pro Press Conference moderator: Rinny said she welcomed the fact that all the attention was focused on you this year and she could just focus on herself. Does being the defending champion bring with it a lot of distraction?
Daniela: Yes it was amazing what I experienced after Kona. And especially after [winning] the [million dollar] Triple Crown. 2015 was an amazing year for me. It took me a bit of time to get used to that attention. It was quite a lot to handle. But the last 4-5 months is getting more quiet. So now I could get back to what I really want to - training. So the past months has been a good buildup. I am happy with where I am at and building up the season with Roth and Ironman Switzerland.
ST: How do you feel about comparisons to Chrissie?
Daniela: I won once here. She won I think four times. So I don’t think I can compare myself to her. I try to get little things that she did. I train with her same coach who knows how strong she was. I definitely have a lot of respect for her. I think I am Daniela Ryf and she is Chrissie. I don’t think I will get close to what she achieved soon.