Podcast #83 - Dorian Coninx: 2023 World Triathlon Champion
It was one of the most dramatic finishes to a Championship Series we have ever seen, but Dorian Coninx‘s gold in Pontevedra that also secured him the 2023 world title was the fruit of a very specific, season-long battle plan that picked through the year’s events, ensured plenty of breathing space, recovery time and training blocks but zero room for error.
It was a plan that the 29-year-old admits he wasn’t always fully comfortable with. By missing out on WTCS Montreal and WTCS Hamburg, races in which he had historically performed at his very best, as well as WTCS Sunderland (where teammate Pierre Le Corre would ultimately triumph), Coninx’s final Series ranking would always be at the mercy of one poor result. For an athlete who has struggled with consistency throughout his career, that looked like a big risk. As it happened, that poor result never materialised, the formula was found, risk averted. Gold. World Champion. Paris 2024 place all but stamped. It was everything he hoped for and more.
“Every year seemed to be the same, there were two good races to hide the rest of the results,” Dorian reflects on the new episode of the World Triathlon Podcast. “At the end of the year I could say ‘okay that was a good year because of this and that’, and that helped me to ignore the DNFs. I couldn’t figure out why sometimes I was on and sometimes off. Then I remember at one point in 2019 just being able to accept that I would never find what was making me do that.”
“I told my family and friends that I wasn’t going to be world champion this year, that it was impossible. But I knew I was feeling good, there were some things I wanted to try. I knew that to realise that 1% chance of being champion I had to race a certain way. So I was more focussed on the game than the outcome.”
Of course, it was so much more than a game. Dorian Coninx has been a central figure in French Triathlon since he won the Junior World Championships in London 2013. Vincent Luis may have been grabbing the headlines, but Coninx was their fresh hope at Rio 2016 and has been there helping the team hoover up Relay World titles while knocking on the door of the Series podiums ever since.
After the Junior title came the U23 title, but all was not quite as rosy as it seemed in camp Coninx. Success brought even more demands of himself, ever greater ambitions, and when the results didn’t click immediately, there was an impetuousness that threatened to hamper his progress and that he recognises in his younger self.
“As a Junior, you just want to go full gas from beginning to end. In 2013 I just wanted to win, that competitive edge helped me train hard but it was also a problem. Going to the elite category isn’t easy, everyone is very strong, and sometimes you feel smashed but have to go on even if you know you cant win.”
“I was getting frustrated,” he admits. “That desire to win all the time hasn’t always been a good thing, pushing too hard to be in the front but then unable to do any more so I would stop because I was outside of the top 10. I have learned to respect every position and to fight for every place. It wasn’t always easy for me, I would rather stop than have a bad race, but you cant progress like that. It took a lot of work for me to figure that out.”
It was only after a difficult Rio 2016 campaign that Coninx started to work with a sports psychologist, the real fruits of which are showing themselves today and with whom he expects to have regular contact in the build up to Paris, too.
“I had a really bad race (in Rio) and a really bad year and it was painful at the time but it made me make a lot of good choices afterwards. I do think I could have saved a few years if I had started earlier, but you have to realise on your own if you need that. You cant do it because someone tells you to. You cant change who you are, you can only try to improve yourself, just like in training.”
As for Dorian accepting he would never find what was making him on one race and off the next?
“It seems this year I’ve found it! But I guess we’ll see next year if I really did or not…”
One other certainty is it’s going to be quite the year for Coninx and the entire French squad in 2024.
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