Steffen revels in connection with new coach
"XENA" is finally ready to unleash her wrath on the world.
Four years as the bridesmaid and a switch to a coach who owns a pair of world titles have equipped Sunshine Coast-based star Caroline Steffen with the tools to finally become the world's top female triathlete.
As she prepares to race in Sunday's Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast, Steffen has revealed she is more confident than ever just weeks out from another Ironman World Championships appearance.
"I'm actually ready in the head to win," she said yesterday. "In the past maybe I wasn't ready. Even though I might have been able to win, I wasn't really in a certain situation where I needed to win - I was quite happy with second.
"This year I am different."
The 178cm former national swimmer and cyclist for Switzerland, who is nicknamed "Xena" because of her warrior-like stature, has long had the ability to test the best triathletes on the planet.
But her newfound mental strength comes from a decision earlier this year to hire coach Chris McCormack one of the few triathletes to twice conquer the legendary world championship course in Hawaii.
Like Steffen, McCormack's highest finish in his first four attempts was second, before he broke through with a win in 2007 and completed a rare double in 2010.
STEFFEN, the runner-up in 2010 and 2012, also hopes to make it fifth time lucky when she competes in Hawaii on October 11.
The shared experience of a heart-breaking world championship silver has given the pair a connection that extends beyond the normal understanding between coach and athletes.
"He came back and won it twice, so he know what it takes," Steffen said.
"He understands and it's good to have that connection, athlete to athlete and not so much coach to athlete."
Steffen, who was on the Swiss national swim team for 10 years and had two years as a professional cyclist before switching to triathlon full-time in 2010, altered her training methods under McCormack.
A varied routine of shorter training blocks has the 35-year-old feeling the freshest she has in her triathlon career.
The new coach has also worked on her running, which has come a long way since her step away from the pool eight years ago.
"I pretty much started running in 2006 and I ran 1km up and 1km back and I was sore for a week," Steffen said.
"When you are swimming, you never really run. If you see a swimmer running on the beach it's terrible.
"And when I was cycling, running was never an option because you had to save your legs for riding, so it's something I've had to work on."
Steffen has become one of the best runners in world triathlon, but even the minutest improvement may prove the difference between another second place and a maiden world title.
McCormack's biggest influence may come between the ears, where the 41-year-old is inspiring his charge to push herself to another level.
"I spoke to him last week about what it was like to finally win and it's interesting - I'm watching and asking these questions and his eyes just start to get a bit shiny and he got kind of a bit of emotional just remembering that moment when he got around the last corner and finally did it," Steffen said.
"He understands what it's like to come second in Hawaii and come so close to winning."