By Rebecca Wiasak
DOB: 11 March 1992
Favourite leg: Run
Favourite piece of kit/equipment: Bont cycling shoes
Favourite sporting cliché: What the mind can dream, the body can achieve.
Drink of choice at the post-ride coffee stop: Iced-chocolate at Koko Black
One thing we don’t know about you: I work at Australia’s best running and multi-sport store The Runners Shop – Canberra.
Michael Gosman scored his first green and gold uniform earlier this year – aged 18. He is a new breed of junior athlete where you have a background in all three sports, then put them all together. In the past the philosophy in many high performance programs has been to develop athletes who might have excelled in one or two of the disciplines and teach them the third. But triathlon is now so competitive that with athletes like Alistair Brownlee who became the ITU Triathlon World Champion at 21, you can’t afford to have a weakness. Gosman collected a silver medal representing Australia at the Youth Olympics in Singapore in August and then a second silver at the ITU Duathlon World Championships in September. He talked me through his breakthrough season that included a stint at altitude in the Swiss Alps.
TT: Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to take up the sport?
MG: I had always done each of the disciplines and never put it together and because my Dad had always competed in them, I guess it was just natural to start doing it. And once I did, I really enjoyed it so I just went from there.
TT: How much of your success can you attribute to good genes – your dad Alex and older sister Hayley both compete as age-group triathletes so they must have been fairly influential.
MG: I am pretty competitive so I always wanted to beat them so that helped. At swim squad I wanted to swim in front of them and in races I wanted to beat them. That kept me progressing forward. They still work hard, so it still means I have to keep working hard.
TT: You had a breakthrough year in 2009, starting the season with a win at the Sri Chinmoy Sprint Triathlon in Canberra and finished at the ITU World Championships in Budapest. Did that progression surprise you?
MG: I didn’t really expect it, but I had been training really hard so I guess I earned the results I got. Because coming from Canberra you’re not really racing most of your national competitors, it can be a bit of a mystery how your form is going.
TT: Most of the high performance programs are based in Melbourne or Queensland and the strongest athletes are from those states. What have been the barriers to your development training in Canberra?
MG: I actually prefer training with different people, not against your competitors and not having every training session turn into a race. As long as you get spotted and get supported, that’s all you need. You don’t need to have this great big group of juniors around you. Canberra is really moving ahead with the work that Corey [Bacon] has been doing with juniors. There is a big squad now so it is not such a small triathlon junior community.
TT: Do you think there are any disadvantages being in Canberra?
MG: Probably just winter but if anything that does toughen you up. I really like Canberra as a training location.
TT: A lot of your progress could probably get put down to a change in training environment. You changed coaches to Darren Smith and joined his international squad of athletes who based themselves in Canberra last season. What changes did you make to your training last year?
MG: There is a lot more finessing of technique so I went from being a bit raw around the edges to a more complete athlete. There were a lot of one-percenters that I wasn’t doing right. I was training a lot on my own and the squad environment just helped a lot – the support and pushing yourself in training. Just how you approach a race and your mental attitude so pretty much everything got an overhaul.
TT: He seems to place a big focus on the right attitude and being professional in your approach to training. Is it mentally draining to be so focused all the time?
MG: I don’t find it too bad. Because it is something I enjoy, I don’t find it hard to do. He finds ways to make it interesting and fun, even if it is still hard work. Instead of saying you’re doing 100x100m in the pool, we’ll do squad races and open water which makes it a bit more enjoyable.
TT: Most of the athletes in the squad are older than you. What has been the most challenging aspect in trying to adapt to the new squad environment?
MG: Just consistently turning up to each training session ready to go and ready to perform 100% because you can’t really have a bad training session.
TT: There are some top internationals in your squad including Lisa Norden, Barbara Riveros, and Andi Giglmayr. Did you constantly pinch yourself when you were training alongside them?
MG: Even at the start, not really because they were all so inviting and open. They were all so happy and nice people to talk to. Part of being in the squad is you can’t really have an ego. Most triathletes you’ll find don’t have egos and are really down-to-earth. It’s not like a soccer player who gets paid a million dollars a year. It’s a bit different to that so I found it fine. Everybody is so supportive in the group and through facebook even when I’m back in Australia and they’re overseas, it is a good group to be involved in. There’s not many like it in the world.
TT: What did you learn from each of them?
MG: Just their attitude and preparation for each training session and race and how they would adapt their technique if Darren says they’re doing something wrong, how they’re going to change it and how they’re going to apply it.
TT: It was great to see Darren and his athletes out at some of the local Triathlon ACT events last year including the All-Stars where we got to race against Barbara and Andi.
MG: He wanted to support the local events and give them a hit-out. They’re not just going to do a race because there’s a big pay packet or they’re being paid to do it. They’ll do a race because they want to do it, which is good.
TT: There is a rumour about some unusual training methods including stripping down to your undies at a training camp. Can you explain the science behind this, or did you just want to even up your tan-lines?
MG: It was actually a teams’ competition at the end of the camp to see who won by the most points and I was dared to do it. I ended up with quite a lot of points that my team won so it did help in the end. It was pretty good fun.
TT: You had the opportunity to travel overseas with the squad to their European base in Switzerland. What was it like to experience living as a full-time athlete?
MG: We were based in Davos. It’s in the Alps so it’s quite a small town. It’s Switzerland’s version of Thredbo or Perisher. It’s a very upper class, very rich sort of town, and pretty amazing ski-slopes. It is totally different. The riding was amazing going up the mountains, over the passes. Being such a small town, you can train at whatever time because the roads are totally empty and you can totally focus just on training. There are not too many distractions in such a small town. It was great fun. I really enjoyed it so I definitely hope to go back there again some time.
TT: You finished first in the youth category at the ITU Oceania Youth Olympic Qualifier in January, and fourth overall. Do you think you had a home-ground advantage or were you just in ripper form?
MG: I almost got lucky in that race that the bike packs came together because I had a really bad transition and missed the front bike pack. To be honest I had a good swim and was okay on the bike but it was probably one of my worst runs. If it had been a bit later in the season I probably would have gone a bit closer to winning it overall. It was good racing at home with the support so that definitely made me want to hold on for that spot in the Youth Olympics.
TT: Did you know during the race who you had to beat to get that spot?
MG: At about 4km I realised, just as I was really starting to tire and there was a guy closing on me from behind. So that’s when I really had to stick it out and hold my position.
TT: Soon after you won the junior Oceania Triathlon Championships in Wellington. Would you rate this as your career highlight?
MG: It was probably a big breakthrough. The training had been really good leading up to it. I had really good sensations. The race went really well and I felt in control the whole way. I expected to win and I did which was good. It felt like I had fully reaped the rewards from my training over summer.
TT: In August you competed for Australia for the first time at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. It was a sprint distance (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run) but your race was pretty much over in the swim when you had an issue with your goggles. What happened?
MG: I used to have a habit of losing my goggles anytime I dive into a pool. My dive technique is probably not right and in Singapore I probably didn’t put my hands in front of my face and took the full force of the water on my goggles unfortunately and they came off. It lost me quite a lot of time and any chance to really make that front pack. And then on the bike we weren’t working that well together so it was really no chance of winning, straight away.
TT: Was it devastating to know then that there would be no chance you could chase them down?
MG: You never know during a triathlon, so even after we got off the bike about a minute and a half down, I thought I could still get close to a top-5 or podium, but then it just didn’t really happen on the run. So it wasn’t until after that I thought it was a bit disappointing that I missed out, but during the race I still thought I was in with a chance.
TT: Will you wear a double swim cap next season?
MG: I use two now so hopefully I won’t make that mistake again. Darren will probably kill me if I do. So many races have dive starts now you can’t really afford to do that, so I guess I have to keep practicing. It was a pretty rookie error.
TT: To your credit you came out of the water in 24 (out of 32 competitors) and then finished 12th. It must be good knowing you can run down most athletes in the field.
MG: Is it good to know because there is no point having a good swim leg, because people are just going to catch-up to you on the bike. And there’s no point having a good bike leg because it takes up so much energy to stage a breakaway. So having a good run leg is something you can always rely on and you can just wait right until the end until you unleash it. So it does give you confidence and it is the easiest way to win, on the run – compared to the swim and bike.
TT: Despite the disappointment in the individual race you were able to pick up some bling in the mixed team relay with Ellie Salthouse and a pair from New Zealand. How exactly does that work in triathlon?
MG: It goes girl-boy-girl-boy, each doing a mini-triathlon, and then handing over to the next team member. It’s all draft-legal so it is very fast, fun and exciting. I find it’s a different experience doing it as a triathlete, because you’re so used to racing as an individual. When you do it in a team it is totally different. The IOC president was there in Singapore seeing it, so I think they’re pretty confident it will be in by the time Rio comes around.
TT: What was it like being on the podium with a silver medal around your neck?
MG: It’s not as good as the individual medal but I still wanted to come away with something from there, a medal, a mascot and a little collectors box. That made it good but I definitely would have preferred an individual medal.
TT: You were then selected to again represent Australia at the ITU Triathlon World Championships in the junior elite race but had a quick trip to Edinburgh and raced the ITU Duathlon World Championships placing second. Did this give you a bit of confidence leading into Budapest?
MG: The whole overseas trip was all just about gaining international experience. I went to Edinburgh just to really have a hit-out because it was the World Champs and it worked in well being the week before. It did give me confidence that I was in good form. It still didn’t really give me swim confidence, but bike and run I knew I was going to be up there in Budapest.
TT: Can you describe your World Championships experience?
MG: I didn’t find it overwhelming. It was big, but I guess because I had done the two previous races I got this international experience and I didn’t feel like I was under pressure at all. I didn’t find it that much different to just national races.
TT: You placed 13th in that race. Were you happy with that result?
MG: Yeah, definitely. I’ve still got lots to improve on and hopefully challenge for a medal next year in Beijing.
TT: What do you think you need to work on?
MG: Just all-round, general, improving everything and not stagnating. I need to be a comfortable front-pack swimmer, keep my bike where it is so I can comfortably sit-in, and then making sure I have the run to challenge for the win.
TT: There were whispers that the team managers wouldn’t let the junior athletes out for the after-party but I heard you got to meet Alistair Brownlee so it must have been a good night being around all those athletes and seeing that they race hard and party hard.
MG: From what I can remember it was a good night. I had one of my mates from Canberra, Richard, over there so we had a really good time. It really shows just how good triathlon is as a sport, where you can hang out with World Champions at a party and they’re not in the VIP area or in their own private nightclub. It really made it memorable.
TT: You seem to have the respect of a lot of the local distance running community. Do you think this is because you started out as a runner or because you can compete with them at their 400m repeats session at the AIS on Tuesday nights?
MG: You do have to prove yourself more as a triathlete, especially as we do have a bad reputation with our Fuel Belts and visors and compression socks but at the end of the day, runners don’t really judge you that much – as long as you’re not running in Newtons. If you’re still giving it your all, and you are running quick, they’re not going to disrespect you at all. I guess it’s probably worse with cyclists not respecting triathletes.
TT: What is the most challenging aspect of being a junior athlete? It tends to be harder to get the support, recognition and rewards that open elite athletes have.
MG: When you finish school you have to decide whether you go to uni or whether you take a gap year or whether you pursue it full-time and really back yourself. Or whether you just want to do a back-up plan first in case triathlon doesn’t come off. Some people just go half-hearted both ways and that’s probably not the right thing to do. You either want to go one way or the other.
TT: What are your ambitions?
MG: I still want to have a balanced life with work, study and training. At the end of the day I always want training to come first so that I have no excuse for my results then, I can’t blame it on too much work commitments or uni commitments. I always like pursuing something, just one single thing, I never like branching out really, that’s just my personality. I think you need something on the side to keep your brain stimulated and keep you busy a bit, but not to take away from the training at all.
TT: Athletes seem to spend a lot of time sleeping. In all of your online profiles I have read you rate sleeping as one of your favourite things. Do you feel like you are napping your life away?
MG: I am always scrambling to find answers on most of those online profiles. I see training as a way to sleep at night. If I don’t train, I can never sleep. I enjoy thrashing my body so that at night I collapse into bed and go straight to sleep and have a really deep sleep.
TT: You have been pretty fortunate not to have any injury concerns.
MG: With Darren it’s a lot of technique work that irons out any problems that could occur. He’s pretty focused on massage and physio so the problems don’t occur because it is just so important to get those consistent blocks together.
TT: We all have weaknesses – especially in a sport like triathlon where there are three sports to train for. What are yours?
MG: Definitely my swim still is a bit of a weakness. Sometimes my transition skills can be a bit dodgy. I don’t want to say too much to give away to my competitors. It is impossible to be a perfect triathlete and that’s why most triathletes do the sport, because they always want to keep working to get better. They never want to reach a 4-minute mile. It’s about creating your own path and doing your own milestones. It’s not time-based objectives you are after. You either want to win a World Championship in ITU, or Ironman or do the 70.3 so you can choose whatever you want.
TT: Is the pinnacle Olympics?
MG: Yeah. Definitely Olympics. I really like watching Ironman Hawaii every year but you’ve got to go short first, you can’t go straight to Ironman.