”The difference in level is quite high” - Interview with Cathia Schar

Cathia Schar representing Switzerland

Allow me to begin with a brief disclaimer. This interview took place in the midst of July, a time when my schedule was (and continues to be) quite hectic, making it challenging for me to find the time to edit this interview. Between multiple training camps, races, and additional travels, it’s been quite a whirlwind. However, I’m excited to present the interview, and Cathia is someone who truly was worth the wait. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Cathia and Me forming a train on a bike session

Getting to taste the Elite level

Your first race was a Junior European Cup in Lausanne back in 2017, it seems that you learned and experienced a lot during the early years. Fast forward to 2019 you came in 4th at the Junior European Championships. In the upcoming years you competed in countless Elite and U23 races, before you were the U23 European Champion in 2022.

You basically dominated the Junior and U23 years; was it a no-brainer to step up to the pros? Could you share your experiences from your first races in the Elite field?

I think I was well prepared mentally, as the people around me had warned me that the difference in level is quite high.

By the end of 2020, I had a lot going on outside triathlon and I wasn’t so sure anymore that this was the path I wanted to follow. But I was already enrolled in the army’s program for elite athletes. So I trained with a good team for 6 months, which finally convinced me that this was a life I liked.

I started my first Elite European Cup in 2021. My results weren’t exceptional, but okay, I didn’t have much to look forward to as I was injured for 3 months during winter preparation. Most of all, I enjoyed traveling for the first time only with my training partners and friends.

Cathia runnig

From the outside it looks that you made the obvious thing, by stepping up to the biggest stage. Was there a specific first moment when you felt you have a good chance to make it among the elites?

The 2022 season was a breakthrough season for me. I was able to really realize that I had the potential to compete at elite level too. The race that really stood out for me was the WTCS in Montreal (editors note: Cathia placed an astonishing 14th place and grabbed a Top10 with the Swiss Relay), my first race at this level. Being at the start with the best in the world was just huge for me. I realized that I really wanted to be part of that world of pros.

Despite your relatively youg age, you produced multiple best bike-splits no matter the level of competition, dominance is not enough to describe your biking skills. Has biking always been your favorite discipline in triathlon? What made you the biker you are today?

I think I’ve always really liked cycling, even though it’s the only one of the 3 sports in which I’ve never raced. It’s also the sport I trained the least in until I was 18. On the other hand, I always rode with the boys, following their trajectory and speed. So I certainly acquired strength and agility on my bike thanks to that.

Cathia as an Eagle at SLT

Experiencing Super League Triathlon

Let’s change topic for a bit .You’ve been an SLT champion with the Scorpions. How different is SLT from what we are used to in Olympic triathlon? Which format has a warmer place in your heart?

The SLT was a great experience for me. It’s a more dynamic format, you don’t have the right to make mistakes. You also can’t let up and go at your own pace, you have to keep up with the leaders to stay in the race. There are also a lot of things to think about, and you can’t let your automatisms do the work, because the transitions are not in the same order as usual and you have to think of every moment when you can earn points for the team.

A particularity of this event organization is also the connection you create with the other athletes. You live for a few weeks in the same hotel as the others, and you get to know athletes with whom you would normally only exchange a few words.

My favorite format, I think, is the triple mix. It’s nice to do a triathlon in the other direction in the middle.

Ladies and Gentlemad your 2023 European Championships bronze medallist

The craziness before the European Championships

What were your thoughts and feelings in the last 48 hours before the European Champs in Madrid? It must have been an emotional roller coaster.

It was hard to stay focused on what you had to do, because the question of whether to do a duathlon or a triathlon was always on my mind. But I prepared myself mentally for a triathlon. I think the best thing to do is to adapt as quickly as possible to the change of decision. If you’re more flexible and don’t lose energy with that, you already have an advantage over the others.

But I have to admit that I needed a last-minute call with my coach to stay calm in my decisions.

After it was decided to be a duathlon race, what were your main goals and strategy for the race?

I thought I’d seize the opportunity to have a good race. My plan was to stay at the front on the first run and then put pressure on the bike as the course suited me well.

Not only your biking, but your running was phenomenal as well. I am just hoping I will run great someday as you do. Looking back, how did you perform compared to your expectations?

I’m sure it will come with time ;)

I’m glad I was able to run well after a tough bike. I was surprised that some of the girls behind me didn’t overtake me. If I’d known I was going to hold this speed to the end, I’d have tried to go with the first two from the start.

Olympics and Goals

It’s no secret you are aiming for the Olympics despite your relatively young age. When did you decide to go for it? Or it just turned out to be the goal along the way?

It’s been my goal since I was young to go to the Olympic Games. I often thought that Paris would be too early for me. I realized at the end of last season that it might be possible. So we set this goal for the season, and I’m doing everything I can to achieve it, including taking a semester off from my studies.

What are your short-term goals before the Olympics?

My aim is to reach a top 8 in the WTCS and enjoy the races I do. (editors note: after our interview Cathia placed 8th at the World Triathlon Sprint Championships in Hamburg, so mission accomplised, I guess!?

Cathia and Me forming a train on a bike session

Transition Zone aka Fast Questions

Which achievement are you most proud of?

I think it’s my 3rd place at the European Champs.

What is your routine on a race day?

  1. Eat 3-4 hours before

  2. Two braids as a hairstyle

  3. Listen to good music or watching funny videos during my bike Wup

  4. Easy run-swim Wup with strides

  5. Before the start, relax and talk positively to myself.

Go-to music on a hard training?

I’m going to say a really basic one, Lose yourself Eminem.

If you had to choose a sport, but it can’t be triathlon, what would you choose?

I would say cycling, or ultra trail .

If you could go on a vacation right now, would you choose the beaches or the mountains?

Mountains because we’re more often at the beach for triathlon.

That’s a wrap!

I am really grateful to Cathia for making the time for this interview. I hope we will get together for a follow up pre- or after the Olympics. We all wish you the best!

And also Thank You (yes, You!) for taking the time to read this blog post. If you are interested in past blogs, go check them out and if you are interested in the next ones, follow me on my socials to get notified. If you found a mistake or have an idea for the future, please do not hesitate to reach out to me on the given platforms!

See Ya at the next one! :)

Disclaimer: Some of the photos above were taken by 3rd parties, they are the respectful owners.