Javier Gómez Noya turns 38 this Thursday. In Tokyo he will seek the Olympic gold, the only title he is missing, with more years (about seven more on average) than the litter of young people who lead the triathlon. But also with more experience, the one that, he says, is helping him manage anxiety. That of the pandemic, and that of the approach to the Olympic event.
The five-time world champion celebrates that the Games finally take place – March is the deadline set by the IOC for an eventual second cancellation – even with audience restrictions. There will be no foreign visitors and the organizing committee will decide in April what to do with the nationals. “For athletes the important thing is that there is going to be competition, even if it is without an audience. We are looking forward to competing, ”said the triathlete this Monday morning at the inauguration of a Banco Santander office-cafeteria in Vigo.
He arrived at full speed, after the morning swimming session, and announced that in April he will go to Mexico for a month, to the island of Cozumel, to look for the same weather conditions that will be in Tokyo during the Games. The men’s triathlon test is scheduled for July 26 at 6.30 in the morning. “Cozumel is Caribbean with heat and humidity, what we are looking for. A quiet place where I have already been training and competing. Depending on how the April concentration is going, the idea is to repeat it before the Games ”, explains Gómez Noya.
In the capital of Japan, the average temperatures at the end of July are between 24 and 30 degrees with a humidity of 90-91%, which makes the sensation of heat and suffocation much greater. The sea water of the Odaiba Maritime Park, where the 1.5 km of swimming of the test will be swam (plus the 40 km of bicycle and the 10 running), will be at about 29-30 degrees. “This is how it was last year when the test-test for the Games was done. To give you an idea, a heated pool is at 27 degrees … We are doing some work sessions with a wetsuit to simulate those hot conditions ”, he says. Hence the decision to focus on Mexico and find similar natural conditions.
The triathlon competition calendar, like most sports, has been affected in 2020 and also in this start of 2021. The World Series have been delayed and will start in May. “I think that from here to the Games there will only be two and they will serve us in preparation for Tokyo. If all goes well, those in Yokohama and Leeds will be done, because the first one that was planned has already been canceled due to the pandemic, ”says Gómez Noya. It will be the most specific form of preparation and also the way that each one will have to measure himself against the rivals and check where they are. At the moment, everyone works blind, without knowing how the favorites for the Olympic podium are (apart from the Spanish Mario Mola and Fernando Alarza, the French Vincent Luis, the Norwegians Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden).
Gómez Noya takes all of them several years. And yet your body continues to respond. This Sunday, on a climb that is in Pontevedra and that he uses to do series, he made his best time ever. “That doesn’t mean anything either, but it does mean that the body responds and that I can be at my best level …”, he says. “He does not do it in the same way as when he was 25 years old, of course.” The key is to know how to adapt in your way of training and recovering. Yes, I have seen that I am capable of reaching my best levels, but not in the same way as I used to do it before. At the age of 25 I trained for four weeks well and was on top and could compete every weekend and recovered very well. Now I know that to get into shape I need more time, I need to go more progressively, I need to take care of my body a little more, paying more attention to some things of recovery, feeding, and physio work ”, he clarifies.
What has changed with age is the approach he makes to reach that point of form. “It’s about knowing how to take care of yourself and focus training on what you need at all times. I go much more progressively and compete only when I feel good and ready for it. I try to avoid beatings and try to recover well between races. Between the toughest running sessions, I leave more space, I look at what work leaves me more affected by the day to space out the toughest sessions ”, he analyzes. Swimming in that sense has not suffered alterations in its routines. He did take advantage of last year’s confinement to fine-tune technical things, such as the angle of the strokes. “I put my legs in cold water after the sessions because it suits me and I also wear compression boots several times a week,” he adds.
“I didn’t beat myself up during the weeks of confinement,” says Gómez Noya. He was not a victim of the anxiety that some could have while waiting for the decision on whether there would be Games. Overtraining injuries were recorded in some athletes because they were afraid that stopping would make them lose their ideal shape. “The 38 years help me in that, I have more experience to manage things. Last year, in which it was barely possible to compete, we older people did not miss it so much because, unlike young people, we do not need to be hard to learn to manage race situations. They sure have had a worse time ”, he analyzes.
Know how to manage anxiety
The experience also gives you peace of mind to approach the Games. His third after Beijing 2008 and London 2012 (where he got silver) In Rio, where he was one of the candidates for gold, he could not compete because he broke the head of the radio in training a couple of weeks before traveling to Brazil. “Before I felt the pressure of the Games, I did not know how to manage it or I did not have the experience to manage it. Now yes and that is positive. For the younger kids who are candidates for the medals, maybe that anxiety can. I’m seeing a lot of people doing some markings right now… the important thing is to be well when you have to be well. I made that mistake before Beijing, in March and April I won everything I competed for and it seemed that I did it without effort. At that moment you get the feeling that your form can still go up, that you can improve … but there comes a time when injuries and problems appear. Now I have more experience and I think I will know how to fine-tune the preparation a little better, ”he says.
The one that remains intact at 38 years old, according to Carlos Prieto, his coach, is motivation and the desire to win. “It is not necessary to be motivated every day, people think that we go out every day to train hypermotivated and wanting to eat the world and it is not like that; There are days when you don’t feel like going out to train, but you go out because it’s your job and you’re a professional. You go out for the goal and that is why you fight it and if the results accompany you, then it is a boost of confidence ”, he concludes.