Triathlete Yvonne van Vlerken

Get to know world champion Yvonne van Vlerken. She is 40 years old and still killing it. If you need a boost of motivation, read this interview. It’s an inspiring story of the dutch badass woman.

“I used to play soccer, but I’m a person that give’s 200% and isn’t very good in not winning. I can cope when I loose and somebody was just better, when I gave my best then it’s ok. In this individual sport I’m responsible for the outcome and nobody else. In soccer I was always giving my all and others would mess it up in my eyes. This is one of the big reasons why I stopped.

Triathlon is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle which I love. This sport has given me so much, not only the love of my life but also a great career, friends and a exciting and fun life. For me being a Pro Triathlete is a dream job. I get to do what I love every single day.

I’m just such a lucky person. My husband and I have the same profession and we normally do around 80-90% of the same races. Usually, I race a bit more as well, we women are the stronger one of the species and men just can’t handle too much racing. We recover faster and especially the long distance racing seems to be easier for our body than it is for men. We travel together a lot and this makes it so much fun. I am happy where ever I am, it’s not a joke, for me it feels like I have homes around the world. If I’m in Australia, Lanzarote, Phuket/Thailand, Austria, Germany or the Netherlands, I love it everywhere as long as I can live the life I’m living. Thank god my husband and me race in the same events, on the same day and often our start is just 2 minutes apart, the Pro Women normally start a couple of minutes behind the Pro men, behind us all age groupers, then the amateur start. As a triathlete we are really lucky as we swim, bike and run all the time, meaning you are outside, where ever you are and get to explore the country.

It’s all about BALANCE. I’ve been such a happy and healthy athlete my whole career, never had an injury, hardly ever sick, I really figured it out for myself to balance everything. My love for my sport and maybe even more the gratitude for what this sport has given me makes it easy to stay on the highest level and give my best every day! I have changed as a person and athlete, when I look back at my beginning years’ I would always be so nervous. You need that tension to perform well, but I don’t get as upset anymore. The outcome of a race doesn’t really change anything. We race a lot and you will just have to deal with what you get on race day. Your performance is influenced by so many things that you don’t have control over.

I’ve done races for so many years, it’s like having a full bank account with kilometers. Now, I just don’t train as much or as hard but race more. You need experience to win triathlons, it’s not always the best athlete that wins. It has happened many times that younger athletes have lost the race against me just because of that. To keep this level also has to do with balance again and being smart with your training and recovery. I get a massage once a week and I have many tricks to recover faster. Maybe I should also tell you that I sleep an average of 11 hours, this is the best recovery you can get.

My advice for a young athlete, do everything as good as you can, focus and give it your best in every situation. If you succeed to do so, your performance will match this.

My greatest memory was breaking the 14 year old world record in 2008 at Challenge Roth. I dreamed and focused on this goal for a whole year. Even when the conditions were horrible and on race day people told me it wasn’t possible, I believed in myself and did exactly what I wanted and broke the record. Consistency and passion will bring the best out of you at some point and that’s for sure not at a young age in triathlon. I have reached my highest level in the later part of my career. I’m still improving in the first discipline, my swim is getting better and better every year. You are NEVER too late to learn stuff and this counts for our sport as well.

I had a huge setback, lost my passion for my sport and lost myself. I wasn’t the happy and shiny positive Yvonne. I wanted to stop but thank god my coach Siri Lindley and I crossed paths. I’ve been working with her ever since and I will be forever thankful for her bringing me back and racing better than ever before. When you’re unhappy, don’t wait, change something. You are not alone. Always find gratitude and passion for what you’re doing. Remember how damn lucky you are that you can do what you love. Don’t take it for granted and make it awesome. I’m so happy I kept going and even now with 40 years “old” I’m full of plans and exciting things to come. I’m building up a coaching platform under my coach in Europe.

I don’t think I’ll stop racing as long as I win. Those young girls better make sure that they have their stuff together and never underestimate a person that’s full of knowledge, passion and gratitude.”

Picture: James Mitchell

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