She’s one of the greatest athletes to have ever competed on the ITU circuit and after a 15-month hiatus, Vanessa Fernandes is back. Talented and strong in all three disciplines, Fernandes was winning races at an astounding rate. Her impressive triathlon resumé includes five European championships, Olympic silver from Beijing, the 2007 World Championship and a staggering 20 World Cup titles, most of any athlete in ITU history.
The last time she raced an ITU event was at the Madrid round of the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series in 2010. In a race she had practically made her own with six consecutive titles, she finished 10th. Hampered by injuries, Fernandes did not race for the rest of 2010 and at the beginning of 2011, she announced she was taking a step back from the sport.
Now Fernandes has returned—focused and motivated—and back on her own terms. We caught up with the Portuguese superstar to discuss how her life and mentality have changed, as well as the pressure she’s faced and what her future goals are.
On what she has been doing since her last ITU race in Madrid, June 2010:
“I have been thinking about myself and life and to put again the feet on the ground and to see my reality at the moment. I stopped a little and think a while and because now I know what I want and now I know what I am. I think in the last years I was a little bit lost because I was doing this but I think it wasn’t myself racing, it wasn’t myself who was competing or was training so everything was a lot of confusion in my head and everything I do in all my days. So now I think I find myself again and I really know who I am and I really know what is my nature and what I want to do now for my life. For this race I just want to show to me who I am and how I am at this moment.”
On the pressure she faced:
“I think everyone in their life has ups and downs and it was for me I have to take away and take off everything. It was a lot of pressure because it’s not easy, you’re not alone but almost alone when you’re competing for your own country. When everything is accumulating after a lot of years on your back and you don’t know sometimes how to manage the things, it’s not easy and everything it’s new and everything was new for me. And now I think I know how to manage the things and I know how to face the reality of my days and of my life. Pressure is something that all of the good athletes we have to know how to face and we have to know how to manage. But I think it’s good, I think it’s good to see that I’m a person to have to manage the pressure because it’s a symbol that you are good in something you are doing. I’m back, I am now here but in the last years, Vanessa was not a person, I didn’t know who I was.”
On how much of the races she has followed:
“I was following some of the last races and I think the girls are very similar, they are very competitive so I think it’s been a very, very good WCS and very good competitive girls.”
On qualifying for London 2012:
“Yeah I’m here for that. I’m here to try to get some points and I want to go to the Olympics in London.”
On the possibility of having a different Olympic experience in 2012:
“I just want to be myself, not like how I was feeling in 2008. It’s not just because about one medal or something like that, it’s just because it’s the way I want to feel. I want to feel like a gold but inside me. I want to solidify my career, I want to do a lot of things in triathlon and I want to be back in another way.”
How will she go in her first major race in 15 months? Tune in on Monday at 8:05am (local time) at triathlonlive.tv.