Javier Gomez: the best athlete you have never heard of
Chances are that words and abbreviations like; ITU, Olympic Distance, 70.3, WTC,draft legal, non-drafting, full distance, and half distance mean either nothing or something completely different to the majority of Americans than they do to triathlete Americans. Triathlon as a competitive sport just doesn’t have the penetration in American culture that it does in other countries. This is probably due to the fact that as a sport it has only existed since the seventies and it has only been in the Olympics since 2000.
Generally speaking, Americans are inpatient with endurance events. Did anyone really know who Meb Keflezighi was before he won the 2014 Boston Marathon? To give another pertinent example, in the last Summer Olympics many people can remember Missy Franklin’s fantastic performances, but do you remember who won the 800 meter freestyle gold medal? Many have forgotten that there was another young American woman who decimated her competitors, her name is Katie Ledecky and you will see her in future Olympics. In swimming we tend to focus on events 400 meters and less (Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe, Mark Spitz) because it takes a lot less time to get the race finished. Watching a race for 9 minutes (800) or 15-16 (1500) is tedious to people because often the finish isn’t as exciting as it is in the sprints.
To the point, if you didn’t know who Katie Ledecky is then I am all but certain the name Javier Gomez means nothing to you. Javier Gomez is the World ITU (International Triathlon Union) and World WTC (World Triathlon Corporation) 70.3 distance champion as well as an Olympic silver medalist. This is what he looks like:
Those times without the proper context don’t really mean anything. Lets just focus on his run. One hour, nine minutes, and twenty seven seconds. That is for a half marathon which is 13.1 miles. That puts his split time at roughly 5:27 a mile. Can you run even one mile at that split? To put that into perspective, that time would have placed him 4th in the Denver Colfax Half Marathon in 2014. He would have placed 20th at the Boston Half Marathon – a much more competitive race. Now for the proper context; he also swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles before he put on his running shoes. If I took the top Boston 1/2 Marathon finisher (1:00:34) and had him ride his bike for 56 miles at any pace and then start the half marathon once he was finished (and Javier rode his normal pace), Javier would surely beat him on the run, not to mention easily besting him at the other two disciplines.
Considering those times, anyone who asks “who is the best endurance athlete right now” Javier’s name would be in the top 5. Among other people you have never heard of like Alistair Brownlee (Olympic Triathlon Gold Medalist), Marino Vanhoenacker (Ironman distance world record holder), Frederik Van Lierde (reigning Ironman World Champion) and those are just the men…and just the men competing in traditional triathlon. We aren’t even talking about XTerra triathlons which are incredibly challenging triathlons. I haven’t even touched on the women who are growing more impressive to me every time I see a race result. I wonder to myself, will there come a time when people are posting times in the individual triathlon events that are about as or more competitive than their open race counterparts? If it can be done, it will probably be done by someone named Gwen Jorgensen…