Patrick Lange's victory at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii was one of the most impressive performances of the year. He spoke to DW about how he got there and the spirit that exists in the sport.
DW: It has been several weeks since your victory in Hawaii, has it sunk in yet??
Patrick Lange: It's still strange, but in a positive sense. It can still happen that I'll be sitting on the sofa and I'll poke my girlfriend in the side and say: "Man, do you know what actually happened there? How cool is that?" None of us has really grasped it yet. When I see the pictures it still makes me incredibly happy.
What was the key to your success in the race this year?
The biggest key was just to keep plugging away. I never gave up on the race and I just kept on pushing myself, even when I had a lull. As banal as this may sound, this really was the key. I worked my way into top 10, then the top five and as the gaps became smaller, that really motivated me.
After the cycling race, you your were about 10 minutes behind the leader, but it was incredible how you made up ground in the marathon, catching up with and overtaking Lionel Sanders only a few kilometers before the finish line. At what point were you sure that you would win?
In Hawaii you can't be sure of that until you have crossed the finish line. We've seen everything happen on the home stretch there, like people collapsing on Ali'i Drive. You can't afford to be certain that you have won until you've actually done so. I only really sure when I held the finish-line banner in my hand.
During the marathon, defending champion Jan Frodeno, who had not had a good day, cheered you on from the side of the road. How did that make you feel?
This is not common, but it shows how the triathlon works. I think you can not emphasize enough the spirit that exists in this sport. For example, I also hung around to pay tribute to the last finishers, who crossed the line after 17 hours, and handed them their medals. These are virtues and rituals in our sport, which I find particularly great. What Jan did was great and this motivated me at that moment. It was not critical to the outcome of the race, but it made me happy.
With Sebastian Kienle and Jan Frodeno the competition in Germany alone is huge. You said last year that your biggest rivals were not terribly friendly. Has that gotten better now?
No, on the contrary! I think I've become even more of a target. Despite this fact, there is still a sense of mutual respect and fairness. That's the way things should be in any sport. I'm not the one everybody is out to beat now, but this doesn't mean that people treat you differently.
For most people, the question remains: Why do you subject yourself to this?
I kind of grew into it, I had that desire. I used to watch my father when he ran marathons. I stood on the course and thought it was great to run these long distances. As a kid, I was always the one who ran the most up and down the soccer field. So I think some of it may have been in the genes.
What distinguishes the triathlon from other sports, is it this "spirit" that you mentioned?
It's definitely the case in Hawaii. The spirit of Hawaii, there is nothing to compare to the energy on this island. But it also exists in triathlon in general. In hardly any other sport do you see professionals competing in the same race and on the same course alongside amateurs. At the end of the race, an amateur athlete can go over and shake hands with his sporting role model. Try doing that after a Formula One race!
You are world champion, holder of the best time in the marathon as well as the course record in Hawaii. This means you need to look for a new goal. Have you found one yet?
The goal is always Hawaii. This will not change. The race is the top priority and I would like to win it again. I just want to establish myself as one of the greats there. The conditions there suit me.
Darmstadt resident Patrick Lange, 31, is a professional triathlete. In October 2017, he won the Ironman World Cup in Hawaii, setting a course record of eight hours, one minute and 39 seconds. At the start of 2016 he had no sponsors but in October of that year in Hawaii he bettered the long-standing marathon record of triathlon legend Mark Allen. He finished third to complete a German hat trick on the podium behind Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle.
The interview was conducted by Jens Krepela.