Fabio's Triathlon Transformation: From Tragedy to Success

Fabio's Triathlon Transformation: From Tragedy to Success


Overcoming personal tragedy, Fabio Vaz Fernandes Goncalves turned to triathlon, achieving remarkable feats including Ironman World Championships.

Name: Fabio Vaz Fernandes Goncalves

Age Group: 40-44

Years in Triathlon: 10 years

Key Races and Achievements: Ironman World Championship 2016, Ironman South Africa 2021, Ironman World Championship 2022, Ironman 70.3 Portugal 2023.

Before starting triathlon training, I was far from an athlete. My youth was spent playing football, with a brief stint in swimming, and as a teenager, I focused on gym workouts, reaching a weight of 100kg. Marriage at 21 led me down a path of unhealthy eating and heavy alcohol consumption. Although I dabbled in motocross, it was more a hobby than a sport.


The turning point came with a tragedy - the loss of my best friend in a drunk driving accident. I wasn't there that night, and it was a wake-up call. I started running, initially for just 20 minutes, and gradually increased my time. I progressed rapidly from a 10k to a half marathon, then a full marathon. Seeking greater challenges to overcome my past, I turned to triathlon. Starting with Olympic distances, I quickly moved to half and then full Ironman events, beginning with one of the toughest - Ironman Lanzarote in 2015.

The partnership and commitment with a coach yield great results in your performance.

Initial Goals and Challenges

My initial goal was to complete a marathon. Balancing training with family and work life was a significant challenge, involving a complete overhaul of our lifestyle and routines.

Training Journey

My lack of an athletic background meant starting from zero, but my rapid progression was fuelled by dedication and focus on increasingly ambitious goals. With no athletic background in childhood, I still managed to complete 8 IronMan events in less than four years.

Sometimes, doing less is more.

Role of the Coach

Having a coach was crucial. There were times I doubted the process and would have given up if I were alone. The guidance was particularly valuable during the tough training for the IM Hawaii 2016, involving high-altitude camps and rigorous schedules.

Key Achievements

Qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in 2016 was a milestone. Completing the Ironman in Lanzarote twice, achieving sub 10 hours in Hawaii, and finishing a marathon in 2hr 50min were other significant achievements. Each success built my confidence and mental strength.

Personal Growth

Triathlon training brought physical fitness and overall life balance, improving my sleep quality and diet. It also enhanced my efficiency at work and in daily activities, instilling discipline and determination.

Future Goals

My future goal is to achieve a podium finish in my age group at an IronMan event. This means adhering to my training plan perfectly, focusing on quality nutrition, and optimising my race day strategy.

Advice to Fellow Athletes

Start triathlon training without obsessing over results or pace. A strategy that worked for me was dividing the race into three parts - swimming, cycling, and running - focusing on completing each segment rather than the entire IronMan.