World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal

07 May, 2024 | español

World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal

One year ago, Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal (MEX) was in a somewhat different position to that in which she now finds herself. A new best WTCS result of 16th in Abu Dhabi and a 4th place finish at the New Plymouth World Cup in the opening stages of the season hinted at plenty of promise. However, she was not yet in the conversation as a possible Olympic medallist.

After a series of blockbuster performances in 2023, that has all changed.

As World Triathlon caught up with Tapia to discuss her path to Paris, the only place to start was with the race that transformed the young Mexican athlete’s career.

When Tapia stepped upon the start line at the 2023 WTCS Yokohama, few would have pegged her as a likely medallist. Nevertheless, she produced a sensational performance as she won the silver medal. Not only did she defeat a cluster of WTCS race winners and medallists, she announced herself as a legitimate podium contender at the Paris Olympics.

“People remember that race,” said Tapia. “But I don’t want to settle for that, I want more!”

As such, she tries to keep what happened in Yokohama in the past. It is what lies in the future that occupies her mind.

Tapia has already qualified for the Mexican Olympic team. She was informed of her selection in November, alongside Lizeth Rueda Santos and Aram Michell Peñaflor Moysen.

“We have to maintain our performances until May and to keep healthy, or they can send others,” explained Tapia. So long as she manages to do so, a debut appearance at the Games beckons.

In and of itself, the Olympics brings its own vortex of pressure.

“I think I’m ready,” declared Tapia. “It wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t.”

Rather than simply focusing on making her first Olympic start, though, Tapia faces preparing for a Games at which she could conceivably win a medal.

“It’s completely different because I have higher expectations for myself and I think a lot of people have them too. It’s really hard to train and keep thinking that you have to improve your results from last year.”

“It makes it exciting. I’m happy that I’m not only going to the Olympics but I’m going to be competitive. That’s something you didn’t see in the last cycle with the Mexican women.”

When it comes to women’s triathlon in Mexico, Tapia has grown into a leader of the sport. The team are enjoying an unprecedented run of success. Rueda won the Pan American Games title, while Tapia took home the bronze medal. Furthermore, Anahi Alvarez Corral won the home World Cup in Huatulco.

Rosa Tapia

As a WTCS medallist, though, Tapia is at the vanguard. Moreover, she is acutely aware of what her profile means.

“I want to be a good athlete and now there are a lot of people looking at me. I have to be more responsible with my actions and how I am as a human being.” Tapia took a moment to consider what her new status meant but noted that, ultimately, everything comes back to her. “My family has always taught me that I have to keep my feet on the ground and work hard.”

As one of the five continental associations in triathlon, the Americas have enjoyed a rich Olympic history. In Tokyo, Flora Duffy struck gold while Katie Zaferes won individual bronze and silver in the relay. Hitherto, Gwen Jorgensen triumphed in Rio de Janeiro while Susan Williams was also a bronze medallist in Athens. Meanwhile, on the men’s side, Simon Whitfield claimed two Olympics medals for Canada.

Tapia kept a cool face at the thought of adding Mexico to that group.

“It would mean history for Mexico, as it did in Yokohama.”

When it comes to the disparities that exist within the sport, though, Tapia was under no illusions.

“It really means a lot for Mexico to win a medal. Some people talk about Yokohama a lot and I’m like, ‘it was only one race’. I see other girls that win many Series medals within a year. But in Mexico we don’t have that support that other countries have.”

“I think to achieve something like a medal would be really big.” She smiled before she repeated, “It would make history.”

Rosa Tapia 2

Tapia ended the 2023 WTCS 10th overall and as the second highest ranked woman from the Americas (behind Taylor Spivey who took 4th overall). Equally, she is conscious of the greater attention that comes with her success.

“At the end of the day, if I don’t have the medal, the only people that are going to be there are the people I love and the people that love me.”

And so Tapia looks ahead to Paris with plenty of noise around her. Some of it comes in the form of the expectation of a hopeful country. Some of it arises from the sheer scale of the Olympic Games. Some of it comes from the pressure she puts on herself.

“That’s the hardest part. When I’m training, I’m thinking that I have to be the best.”

Recently, she has started to work with a psychologist. “After last year, I felt a lot of pressure and he has helped me a lot to quieten my mind and just do what I need to every day.”
“If I want more, I don’t have to be afraid.”

Tapia had planned to open her season at WTCS Abu Dhabi and is considering taking on a half marathon in April. The WTCS races in Yokohama and Cagliari will follow ahead of another training camp. Then she will return home to prepare for Paris.

Within her season plan, the prospect of racing in Yokohama stands out. Will the scenes of a year prior come flooding back?

“I hope so!” she laughed. “But I’ve never competed in a qualification year so I don’t know how the girls are going to plan their year and how they are going to be in the World Series. They are always strong but this is the most important year so maybe they are going to be like lions!”

Tapia was particularly conscious of the intense American Olympic race in which there will be more WTCS medallists competing to make the team than there are spots available.
“It’s going to be harder than last year but I’m trying to keep calm and focus on July.”

Winds from all directions therefore buffet Tapia. Even with the expectation of a maiden Olympics, the pressure of her medal history, and the weight of hopes of her country, she is moving forwards towards Paris.

To close her 2023 season, she won a first World Cup medal and the Americas title. As she advances, an even bigger 2024 could be in store.

For Tapia, and for Mexico, it could mean history.


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