“I have very high standards for myself but I'm not a machine"
Germany’s Martin Schulz is not going to hold anything back when he competes at the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Cup in Besancon, France, on Sunday (17 June).
Victory at the Eton Dorney World Cup three weeks ago ensured it was a winning return to international competition for the 28-year-old after suffering an ankle problem in the weeks building up to the race. But, despite his winning return, Schulz said he was not at his best.
“The race was OK,” Schulz said. “The weeks before Eton Dorney I could not train as I usually do and I was more likely to play it safe without risking anything. But only winning was important to me.”
After being unable to follow his usual training regime due to his ankle injury, Schulz has returned to a hard block of training and said he is now ready to go all-out attack in Besancon in the men’s PTS5 category.
“I don't know how this weekend’s race will go, but I will do my best and this time I will be much more offensive than in Eton Dorney, especially on the bike and while running,” Schulz said.
Eton Dorney was only the third international event Schulz has competed in since winning Paralympic gold at Rio 2016, where the sport made its Games debut. The German decided to take a break from competing internationally post-Rio, but he is back and now fully focussed on Tokyo 2020.
“After achieving everything, I needed new goals and I wanted to try other things which I put on hold ahead of Rio,” Schulz said. “I wanted to do competitions that I always wanted to do, such as the Bundesliga [German league] races, local triathlons and I didn’t want to travel that much.”
“My big goal is now Tokyo 2020 where I want to win gold again. But, for that a lot had to be clarified and I knew I needed some distance away from Para triathlon to rest and refocus,” Schulz added.
The German has become one of the most well-known names in Para triathlon since taking up the sport in 2011 and he admitted the expectation adds pressure.
“The pressure from the outside is strong,” Schulz said. “Many expect that I will always win, especially in my homeland. Everyone expected me to win in Rio. A second place would have been a disappointment. But, especially for Rio, I only ever had Plan A with the gold medal in my hand.
“I have very high standards for myself but I'm not a machine. I work hard every day for my goals, but sometimes you also need a bit of luck,” the 28-year-old said.
Schulz faces competition from the French pair of Yannick Bourseaux and Yan Guanter, who will be hoping to give the home crowds plenty to cheer about in Besancon, while defending PTS5 champion Alexandr Ialchik of Russia* will also be one-to-watch.
In the men’s PTWC class, Australia’s Bill Chaffey will compete for the first time since claiming bronze at April’s Commonwealth Games. In the women’s equivalent, Chaffey’s compatriot Lauren Parker will continue her Para triathlon journey in Besancon, having already secured four podium finishes, including Commonwealth Games bronze, in the women’s PTWC this season.
Geoffrey Wersy and PTS3 world champion Elise Marc will lead the home hopes in the men’s PTS2 and women’s PTS3 events respectively, while Germany’s defending champion and world bronze medallist Max Gelhaar starts as the favourite in the men’s PTS3 classification.
The men’s PTS4 looks set to be highly competitive with 11 Para triathletes – all from different nations – battling it out to secure World Cup victory. World bronze medallist Gwladys Lemoussu is one of three French Para triathletes targeting a home win in the women’s PTS5.
In the women’s PTVI event, Germany’s Lena Dieter will begin her season in Besancon having just missed out on a medal at last year’s World Championships, while men’s world bronze medallist Vasyl Zakrevskyi of Ukraine will start as one of the favourites in the men’s PTVI event.
*Editor's note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games. For further information please click here.