Pro triathlete Gabor Faldum finished 16th at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and had high hopes of going even better at Tokyo.
However, a mixture of disappointing form and bad luck meant that Gabor missed out on the chance to represent Hungary at the 2020 Games. We spoke to him to find out where it went wrong, what he learned from missing out on his 'A' race for the year, and how he rediscovered his motivation to return to racing...
Hi Gabor, after finishing in the top-20 of the men's triathlon at Rio in 2016, you would have had high hopes for Tokyo...
After Rio, I had huge expectations for the next Olympics. My initial plan was that after qualifying for Tokyo, I would finish higher than I did in Rio.
But then, my form fell apart and luck definitely hasn't been on my side when it comes to the qualifying races!
Can you put your finger on what went wrong?
This year I put everything into one basket - Tokyo. From January until March I spent two months training in the Canary Islands. During this time, I had been waiting patiently to see if the qualification period would kick off again.
The news came out and we'd been informed that 5 additional qualifying races would be included, so I opted to race 3 of the 5 events; in Yokohama, Leeds and Huatulco.
Unfortunately, my swim went so badly that I had zero chance to finish in a significant position in Yokohama and then I suffered some bad luck in Leeds, where I was involved in a collision, fell off the bike and couldn't continue.
I finished 8th at Huatulco and, despite not achieving my goal of reaching the Olympics, I was delighted with my position. I felt that this result represented the dedicated work that I put in during the last 12 months, even if it meant that I'd missed out on my goal of going to Japan.
What were your immediate feelings once you realised that you wouldn't be representing your country in Tokyo?
I was very disappointed to be honest. Afterwards, I felt pain in my chest for a week-and-a-half after I realised I wouldn't be going to Tokyo.
And then when the Games were on, it hurt when I switched on the TV to find the news dominated by events in Tokyo every single morning. Nevertheless, I feel grateful that my friends and peers did achieve great results.
How did you pick yourself back up and find motivation for racing again?
Once I arrived home from Huatulco, I took some time off in order to rest. During that time, I had time to think about what was next.
If not Tokyo, what else?
Then suddenly I got the answer: I would like to try something new. I began to look into the IRONMAN 70.3 calendar events and I realised how enthusiastic I felt about them.
I almost registered for on an IRONMAN event in 2 weeks later but then I figured it would have been too soon, so I went for the 70.3 event in Switzerland, where I finished 6th and qualified for the World Championships.
Fantastic! Given what you've gone through this year, what would be your advice for an athlete who doesn't qualify for their 'A' race?
My answer is that there's always a second 'A' race to come. The key is to understand what you can learn from the experience of not qualifying for the original race and then find motivation for your next target.
At the end of the day, I believe that what counts is:
- The progress we experience in training and racing
- The joy we feel when training and racing
- And the motivation that we keep going no matter what
And with your step up to longer distance racing in mind, what's the biggest change you'll be making to your training volume and to your nutrition plan?
With the bike and the run, I've added some longer sessions and set the race pace for the half-marathon. And I'm also working on getting used to the aero feeling on the bike.
When it comes to nutrition, I'm still learning as I'd have had my last meal roughly 3.5 hours before my Olympic races. I usually eat an energy bar around 15 minutes before the race start, followed by 1 or 2 gels on the bike.
I'd have 2 bottles with me on the bike; one is 500ml with PH 1000 and the other has 500ml of plain water.
In my first 70.3 race in Switzerland, we had over 1000m elevation on the bike leg so it wasn't a fast course and I was eating more regularly. I actually set an alarm to go off every 20 minutes on the bike leg to remind me "it's lunch time".
It's a whole new experience for me and I'm very excited about the challenge, particularly when it comes to making sure I fuel enough.