I have always been enthusiastic about sports. As a child, I remember my father meeting people to train for a marathon and I always wanted to join him. I was curious and hungry and was allowed to train for the first time at the age of twelve. After that, I regularly trained with the group and my father. I learned to value and love the sport and it became an essential part of my life, relaxing and free of stress.
The First Steps – TV Friedrichstein
My enthusiasm for running led me to the track and field club TV Friedrichstein. In addition to specific training sessions for long-distance running, the club also provided opportunities to ride mountain bikes. I soon participated in my first mountain bike race and it wasn’t long before I won my first title. I was 14 when I won the German MTB U15 Championship. Afterwards, I participated in the German MTB Cup and the NRW Cup for several years. The first real indication that I felt at home on long-distance courses came at the turn of the century when I rode my first 120 km marathon at the age of 16.
Switching to Triathlons
DA heavy bike crash soon thereafter meant that I had to take a break from training. I used this time for reorientation. By chance, I met Martin Zülch who created a personal training plan for me for the first time in my life – and it was a training program for triathletes. Martin saw my potential as a triathlete and coached me during my first few years of training.
After competing in junior competitions, I transferred to the National League club TuS Griesheim in 2006, which also meant changing coaches. Gerald Reichardt trained me for over six years. He took me to the top of the German short-distance competition and we won five German Championship titles together.
The Dream of Hawaii within Grasp
In October 2012, I began a special training program for longer distances with my long-time swimming coach, Michael Vogt, focusing on my long-term goal: The IRONMAN Hawaii. Along with my studies to become a physiotherapist, I continued training at a professional level. Soon I had to realize that physical performance data is not the only thing that counts in a long distance triathlon race. My results in mid-distance races (70.3 IRONMAN) fell considerably short of my performances in training and my expectations for those races. I needed another change.
The Next Step
First, I switched coaches, in the winter of 2014 to Manuel Wyss and one year later to 2005 IRONMAN World Champion Faris Al-Sultan. At the same time, I moved to Darmstadt, joined the club DSW Darmstadt and immediately began to see improvements in the new environment, not just on a sportive level, but personally as well. I started building a team of coaches, physiotherapists, consultants and advisors around myself. A team that would have the potential to finally help me in becoming one of the best triathletes in the world.
All or Nothing
In 2016, I put all my eggs into one basket. The trust of a new main sponsor allowed me to quit my job as a physiotherapist and to focus entirely on professional sports. The continued positive changes and the training with Faris soon showed results. I became more and more professional and finally made the long-awaited step from mid to long-distance competitions.
Long-Distance Debut 2016
At IRONMAN Texas 2016, I won the race in my first competitive long-distance start. It was an unforgettable day and a result which led me to being ranked among the world’s best overnight. I had found my strength: long-distance triathlons and in particular, the marathon.
Winning the North American Championship allowed me to qualify for the most important race of the year. I had achieved my first goal of participating in the World Championship on Hawaii. As I crossed the line in third place in October 2016, having set a new record for the marathon, I could hardly believe what just happened. I was an overjoyed and grateful triathlete, somebody who had obviously found his calling.
If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It
The climate, the island, the distance and the course on Hawaii were all in my favor and the island gods seemed to be smiling on me. I started my preparations for 2017 with the dream of winning this legendary race someday.
A long-term injury at the start of the year interfered badly with my training, but also caused me to grow a lot, particularly mentally. This learning process enabled me to stand at the start line on October 14, 2017 with an unbreakable will. I finished the cycling part of the triathlon in 11th place, a far better result than in the previous year, yet I still had to make up approximately 10 minutes to the leaders. I knew how to play the role of the hunter and knew my main strength lay in the running stage of the event. I remained focused on the here-and-now and fought my way through the heat. At times, my thoughts turned to giving up, but I battled against them and stayed strong. So strong that I was able to achieve my dream of winning the most important triathlon in the world and set a new course record while doing so.
A triathlon is not just swimming, riding a bike and running. Triathlons are an endurance sport, one which takes the athletes to their limits every day, both physically and mentally. The main thing is to continue learning, trust in your strengths and above all, to never give up! You have to fight!