Daniela Ryf may have achieved some incredible things in her triathlon career – more than most athletes even dare to dream of, thinking multiple Ironman (70.3) World Championship wins, but also a seventh place at the Olympics – still she has had some of the lowest lows. After Ryf caught a fungal infection in 2010 she struggled with her training for about one and a half year. In a podcast interview with Red Bull, she explains how the crisis actually ended up saving her career.
My first big crisis came right after my first big success at the 2010 World Cup in Seoul. I had won the race and was doing better than ever before”, she looks back at her Short-Distance days. “But what I didn’t know was that I had picked up a stomach virus during that race. It made itself felt on the ten-hour flight back to Zurich: I pulled my diaphragm from throwing up so much and arrived home completely exhausted.”
Her body needed a long time to recover, without Ryf really knowing it. Before each of her training sessions, Ryf felt miserable, but she wasn’t sure whether it was a lack of motivation that she struggled with or something else. After one and a half year she got her answer, as it turned out Ryf suffered from a bacterial intestinal colonization and candida fungus in her stomach.
“Today, I am amazed at how well I overcame this lean period”, she says on a positive note. “I never gave up hope that tomorrow could be better. My family and my environment in Solothurn helped me a lot. And the beginning of my studies showed me that sport is not everything”, like Ryf explained before. While the Swiss star athlete tried to shift her focus to working and studying, she realized how much she needed the competition element and the active lifestyle. Ryf decided to move up to Long-Distance racing, which gave her a new perspective on the sport: “That took pressure off and let me see the sport from a new perspective. From that point of view, the crisis saved my career because it helped me find my balance.”
As she dealt with the health issue, Ryf saw her attitude change. “Sometimes you experience setbacks that are hard to digest. Then you can either bury your head in the sand or look at what’s good about the situation. That’s the reason I’ll never stop evolving and getting better and better.”