Modern-day great Jan Frodeno has opened up about his frustration at being restricted to just one race in the last 20 months.
The three-time Kona and two-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion has endured a tough run with injury and illness and last year made only one start line – leading Challenge Roth until he was forced out early on the run.
A subsequent bike crash and the complications from it would rule him out of a return to his beloved Kona and then his planned comeback in 2023 at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside was scuppered by a virus.
But all is on track for a mouthwatering clash with the men who succeeded him as Olympic champion – Alistair Brownlee and Kristian Blummenfelt – at the PTO European Open in Ibiza on 6 May.
‘We’re not machines’
And speaking on the PTO’s preview programme (embedded below) of that event, the 41-year-old talks candidly about the challenges that he’s faced, explaining: “It’s this expectancy people have of always performing – it’s not always healthy, we’re not machines.
“It can drive you to the sky but it’ll also drive you so far underground. They truly are the highest highs and the lowest lows.
“Looking at the lows the last few years, it’s devastating when you invested in a goal and you really get your hopes up and things start coming together and then at the last minute something just goes boom.
“Pain or emotions of a negative sort are not quantifiable. When you’re facing challenges on all sorts of levels and you can’t balance them out – still believing that I’m able to perform at my best but my body just breaking down every time.
“It’s pretty tough – your mind can bend a lot of truths but eventually a hard truth comes in the form of an injury.
“It’s been a humbling journey to actually realise that sometimes you’re just in the hands of nature.”
Frodeno, who is in what he calls his “last year of full professional racing”, heads into the race in the highly unusual position of needing a wildcard and he’s fascinated at how the landscape has changed in his absence.
He said: “I feel there are about 10 athletes who are doing exciting things and can win any race on the day. There’s a new outspoken generation that’s come in and made statements and performed on the big stages.”
But in terms of being a true champion, he added: “I think it takes a lot more to be a champion than just winning races. As a champion, you kind of stand for a little bit more.
“The one thing a champion doesn’t have is an ‘off’ button.”