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  • Keeping up with paratriathlete Sebastian Engwald

Keeping up with paratriathlete Sebastian Engwald

Say hi to Sebastian, 31-year old amputee who lost a part of his leg in a boating accident in 1999. Is this holding him back, though? Hell no. He's an Ironman finisher and he competes in the international paratriathlon PTS4 elite, while gunning for a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Interview and Instagram Takeover

Sebastian's been on our radar for a while, as he's been crushing his training sessions in SAYSKY apparel. We deeply admire his passion and we were very curious to learn some more about his ambitions, races, daily routines and the accident back then.

Hence, the interview below the picture. Sebastian will also be taking over our Instagram stories on Friday, July 12 - Saturday, July 13. He's currently in Canada for another international race - so, tune in, and join him on the sideline.

SAYSKY Athlete Sebastian Engwald

Interview with Sebastian Engwald

You are a para-triathlete, but could you maybe let us in on what happened to you in 1999?

At 11 years old, during a sailing lesson, I was practising a capsizing drill, when all of the sudden the coach lost control of his motorboat. As the boat got above me, my left leg was pulled towards and through the propeller and completely destroyed. It left me with a below-the-knee amputation from the middle of my shin. Today, I wear different prosthetics depending on which activity Im doing. 

When did you start doing triathlon? And how did you find the motivation again after your accident?

I started doing triathlon in 2013. Since my accident in 1999, I have always been an active kid and doing sports. But, I wanted to take myself to the next level. People would always turn their heads, because I looked different with a prosthesis, so it was easy for me to feel underestimated. As an underdog, I wanted to prove to myself and my surroundings that I could do whatever I set my mind to. So, first I set a goal of climbing Kilimanjaro. After successfully reaching the top in the summer of 2013, I used this as a confidence booster to start doing triathlon. In 2016 I was able to finish Ironman Copenhagen. The next goal is to go to the 2020 paralympics in Tokyo

You have just recently raced the ITU Paratriathlon (World Cup) in Besancon (France). How did it go? And what does this race mean to you?

World Cup in France was the first event, where I could measure myself against some of the very best in the world. I placed 4th. and was only a seconds from reaching the podium. I have put a lot of energy into training for this comeback in ITU paratriathlon and this event proves to me that I am among the best paratriathletes in the world. It gives me confidence now that we are moving into the period of qualification for the 2020 paralympics in Tokyo.

You moved to Dubai in the beginning of 2019 with your wife. What is the biggest difference compared to Denmark? And have you found a training group to train with?

Dubai has offered a very different setup for my training. Looking beyond the societal and cultural differences, the biggest difference is clearly the weather. From October to April the weather is great with temperatures from 20-35 degrees. From April to October, temperatures rises to 35-55 degrees, which makes it almost impossible to be outside in the sun during the day. The warm period is all about getting up early before sunrise, or train inside. This year, I will be away for most of the summer, competing in events in Canada, Japan, Europe and training in Denmark for a while.

Sports are big here in Dubai, and I have been lucky to find a great coach at the Inner Fight Endurance team, which offers a lot of athletes to train with. It's a good way to network and make friends from all around the world. Many people train in the same facilities here in Dubai. So it is easy to find training partners as most of the people in Dubai are foreigners and expats from all around the world, and only 15-20% are local Emiratis. Best thing is that everyone speaks English here.

Of the three components in triathlon (swim-bike-run), which do you believe is your strongest quality?

Definitely swimming. I am a strong swimmer in general, and especially in paratriathlon. My category (PTS4) consist of athletes missing a limb or function on either and arm from the shoulder, or the leg below the knee. That makes swimming an advantages for me with both my arms, and I can get ahead before the bike and run in which I am less strong.

What does a normal training day look like for you?

A normal training day consist of 2-3 sessions. Usually an early wakeup, for an 8-10k run or 1-2 hrs bike session before breakfast. After breakfast, I spend time to recover before heading for the pool for a 3000-5000m swim. Everyday is different and have a different purpose training-vice. All in all it adds up to 10-18 hours of training per week.

You have many races in your schedule this year. Which ones are you looking forward to the most? And which ones will be the hardest to qualify for?

I am really looking forward to the World Championship in Lausanne 1st of September. All of the best athletes in the world will be there, and the competition is the highest in years. However, it is also the hardest race to qualify for at the moment. I am still just outside the qualification criteria, and it is an important race to secure points for the paralympics.

Do you have any advice for people going through the same as you have been going through? Do you have any triathlon advice for those struggling out there?

Here are the three things that have made a big difference in my life as an amputee: 

  1. Get active! Being active and doing sports as an amputee or disabled, is the best way to push your own boundaries and get comfortable on the prosthesis. You will learn fast, and realise that you can do much more than you thought.
  2. Meeting other athletes with the same or a more difficult disability than yourself, will inspire you to lift your own standards and teach you about positivity and accept your own situation. 
  3. Own your disability. Understanding that you are different is not a negative thing. When people look at you differently on the street, they are curious. If you embrace their curiosity with a smile or explanation before they get to think bad of it, they will respect you for it, and you will feel less underestimated or disabled.

My best advice for triathletes and people in general, is to think long term and have patience. Understand that reaching a goal is all about trusting the process towards it. You should set a goal, but use that goal as a direction rather than being a slave of the goal. As you get closer to you goal, you will understand that it is the process that is important and not the the goal itself. If you do the work, the result will take care of themselves.

You goal is to compete at the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020. Will be satisfied with being on the start line or will you be racing for a medal?

Because of the ranking criteria, it will still require some luck, besides all the hard work to get to the paralympics. However I do see myself as one of the best, and I will be striving for the podium!

Keep up with Sebastian on his Instagram page.

SAYSKY Athlete Sebastian EngwaldSAYSKY Athlete Sebastian Engwald