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‘This is what our sport needs’ – Sodaro on Sunday’s showdown at Roth

'I feel like I have that energy coming into this race,' current IRONMAN World Champion Chelsea Sodaro tells us ahead of Challenge Roth.

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Redefining triathlon

Such was the quality of her win at the IRONMAN World Championship in October, it’s easy to forget that Chelsea Sodaro‘s first-ever full-distance race was in Hamburg little more than 12 months ago.

She’s back in Germany this weekend after an extended European “vacation” with her family and we sat down with her to ask how things have panned out and find out what her hopes and expectations are ahead of facing the two women responsible for every IMWC title since 2015 up until her own triumph, Daniela Ryf and Anne Haug.

‘I feel like I’m still a beginner’

When I asked if she felt like she’s still on a learning curve despite being the world champion she said: “Yeah, I feel like I’m still a beginner. You know, I did my first triathlon in 2017, and these women have been competing for up to 20 years, so I feel really fresh. I think that I have a lot left in me.

Chelsea Sodaro Challenge Roth press conference 2023
Chelsea Sodaro talks to the media ahead of Sunday’s race [Photo credit: Challenge Roth]

“Sometimes we talk about training years and mine are really low, so I think I’m just scratching the surface of what I can do. And with each full-distance build that I do, I exceed what I thought was possible.

“I think you get a lot of fitness from each kind of training segment you do for one of these races. And so far, each one has been better and better.”

And when I asked how this latest block had gone – mostly in St Moritz and alongside none other than her coach Dan Plews – she said: “I have a really special and unique relationship with my coach.

“I started working with him when I was six weeks pregnant – he is one of the brightest physiologists in the world but even more important than that he is just a really kind, family man. And I don’t think I would have been able to take this journey from pregnancy, post-partum to World Championship level-performance with anyone else.”

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‘Happy and joyful’

And being able to train together has been an added bonus, as she explains: “He lives in New Zealand so for the most part we work remotely. However he is competing here on Sunday – he actually holds the amateur course record in Kona – and I think he is looking to do something quite speedy this weekend so we are very compatible training partners.

Dan Plews - 2022 Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand age group champion - Photo Sportograf
Dan Plews – a fine triathlete as well as coach [Photo credit: Sportograf]

“We’ve done lots of our training sessions together and with another athlete of his, Jan van Berkel, which has helped me take my fitness to a new level and I’m also excited about what this training segment will do for me moving forward.

“Having such positive training partners who are also incredibly talented made things really fun for me. I know I perform at my best when I am really happy and joyful and I feel like I have that energy coming into this race.

“The beginning of the year was really challenging for me from, like, a mental health and family standpoint, and it took me a while to get going this year.

“I think I didn’t expect how the Kona win would change our life and kind of disrupt things. It’s been really positive in a lot of ways, but it’s also been really disruptive. So I feel like we finally got our feet on the ground. We’ve made some family decisions to make things a little bit more do-able moving forward.

I’ve been so reinvigorated by this training camp with Dan and Jan.

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‘There can be more than one phenomenal performance’

And Sodaro is delighted at the incredible quality of the field she will face, seeing it as a challenge to be embraced. Her Kona predecessors Ryf and Haug will toe the start line on Sunday and she added: “Yeah, I think it seems to me that the women aren’t afraid to just show up. We don’t necessarily always see that in the men’s field.

“I think that we have a lot of respect for each other and we enjoy what the competition can bring out of us. And of course, there can only be one winner on Sunday, but I think that there can be more than just one really phenomenal performance.

“That’s kind of what I experienced in Hamburg last year in what was my first full distance race. I had the opportunity to compete against Laura [Philipp, also in opposition on Sunday and who set the second-fastest time ever that day], and I think that she pushed me to a level that I may not have achieved on my own.

“She kicked my butt, but I learned a lot, and I think that that was a big reason. And I made changes in my training and in my setup after that race based on what I learned. So I think that there’s a lot to be gained by competing against people who are at your level or maybe better than you in certain way.

“And you know what? This is what our sport needs. The fans deserve these kind of matchups. And so I feel really proud that so many of us have shown up. And I know we’re all fit and capable of excellence. So it’ll be a good show for everybody.”

Fantastic words and actions – bring on Sunday!

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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