Has anyone ever called you an over-achiever?
I’m not an over-achiever at all. If anything, I should be more focused!
Were you competitive at school?
I have always been ‘competitive’, but I didn’t live up to my talent because I was complacent. I am obsessed with the idea of ‘wasted talent’, thus I try to live my life to the absolute fullest to ensure I never wake up and regret not doing or not trying to achieve something.
Have you ever failed at anything? Ever?
Of course I’ve failed. When I reflect over my life I see my entire swimming career as a sort of failure, because I never lived up to my potential. But now, I use my past, and all my failures to motivate me to live life to its fullest.
You’ve already climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. How difficult was that?
Well, this was in the days before Google, so all I knew about Kilimanjaro was that it was a mountain in Africa that was as high as Everest base camp. I think the best word to describe me back then was ‘naive’! Anyway, I’d say it was ‘challenging’ rather than ‘difficult’ – I was so tired from the altitude and climbing in the snow that I hardly remember my day on the summit – but we do have a cool summit picture in the middle of a snow storm.
Do you think Dubai suits you as a place to live? What do you like about the place?
For athletes the training in Dubai is ideal. When I am training for the ironman, I wake up early, pack my bike into the car and drive to an area between Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi. Here there are perfect roads and very few cars. Last year, I rode my bike 211km on a training ride and saw less than 10 cars the entire seven hours.
What’s the furthest you’ve swum so far?
Three weeks ago I swam nine hours and 13 minutes nearly nonstop along the French Riviera coast. The swim was very enjoyable and it gave me a lot of confidence for my Channel crossing; but the water in the Mediterranean Sea is much warmer than the English Channel!
What will you think about to keep going when you swim the Channel?
The fear of failure is a big motivator for me, and not failing will be something I focus on during the swim. Also, my best friend at high school died in a car crash in 1999 and often, on long bike rides or swims, I speak to him in my head and this gives me strength. Sounds crazy, I know – but it works for me.
What’s next after this? Will you ever be satisfied?
In October I’m running the Jungle Marathon – a 250 km, seven-day race through the Amazon – you have to carry all your food and equipment. I’m very excited...