Els Visser will admit that her road to becoming a professional triathlete is more unique than most.
She enjoyed various sports growing up but turned her full attention to studying medicine, allowing her to travel the world. But it also changed her life profoundly.
In 2014, while traveling in Indonesia, a boat she had taken with 24 other passengers sank in the middle of the night. Clinging for life to the wreckage, she swam for eight hours to a nearby island where she was finally rescued by a passing boat the next day.
The harrowing experience prompted her to live her life to the maximum and follow her dreams. She had never competed in a triathlon before but was keen to test herself over long distances.
She completed her first sprint triathlon in 2016 and her first IRONMAN in Switzerland in 2017. With an open mind, a "never look back" attitude and untapped potential, she officially entered the professional ranks in 2017. A year later, she started to win titles over the full distance.
It is a truly remarkable story, especially considering most of these achievements were completed whilst completing her medical stories in 2015 and her PhD in Surgery in 2019.
Els says that she doesn’t have a favourite discipline, enjoying some more than others and depending on the time of year.
“My favourite sessions are those that I surprise myself with my performance and achieve something that was impossible before,” Visser says.
“I like the really tough training. It's very hard, but the feeling afterwards is the best and it makes me feel stronger. But I can also enjoy a coffee ride and having a good chat. For me, the combination of sports in triathlon makes it so special.”
She trains alongside the likes of Sarah Crowley and Skye Moench and has picked out the Hills District in Australia as her favourite training location.