Last weekend, after more than one year of preparation, finally the first international Triathlon – Challenge Vietnam, was organized successfully in Nha Trang. The event was a huge success for both competitors and spectators alike and Discover Nha Trang had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Johana Solano from Costa Rica (Top 10 Miss Universe 2011), who finished in 1st place in the female 25-34 category after the tough challenge.


DNT: How long have you been involved in Triathlon events?

Johana Solano: In Triathlon events, I started 3,5 years ago. It was just started as a hobby then I felt that I wanted to do it more, so I started with the Olympic distance. About two years ago, I started with the 70.3km Triathlon. I hadn’t completed the full distance yet, but it was then my plan to keep pushing towards the longer courses.

However, a more important reason was because of my brother. He started Triathlons first but then he was involved in a bike accident. The doctor told him that he would be never able to ride or run again, so he decided to join the Triathlon and did not listen to the doctor, and that really inspired me and my family a lot. So that’s why I decided to join Triathlon events to share the experience with my brother.

DNT: This is the first time you have been in Vietnam, so how has your experience been so far?

Johana Solano: It has been great. I mean, when I knew I was coming to Vietnam I didn’t even check it on the internet so I came not knowing what to expect. For me, the transport is so crazy here, but it it’s funny and I’ve been enjoying the madness. The people have been especially nice to me.

I was in Hanoi for one day, but it was not really memorable. However, the terrific and amazing people in Nha Trang have been great and the food is just so delicious. I really like the scenery for the race course, and it’s a great introduction to my first race in Asia.

DNT: How much training has gone into preparing for this race?

Johana Solano: I train quite a lot. Luckily, I have an amazing job that gives me time for training, so I dedicate around 3 hours per day from Monday to Friday, I train twice or three times per day. I also have a coach in swimming, another coach for gym training and a separate one for Triathlon, so I mean 80 percent of my day is related to Triathlon training.

When I have more time, I train even longer than that. I am very competitive, so when the training gets tough, I like to keep pushing through, thinking that if I want to be the best then I have to put in the hard work.

DNT: Do you get nervous before the race and is the pressure similar to when you were in  modelling events?

Johana Solano: I have never thought about that. I think I get more nervous with the Triathlon because you have prepared for so many months, and you have people who believe in you, so I think there is more pressure. However, the most pressure is from myself, just because I want to do my best and there is no way to know how it will turn out until you cross the finish line. However, I do enjoy this kind of pressure.

DNT: What is your regular job these days? Is it hard to juggle both work and training?

Johana Solano: I work on a TV show these days, it is a fitness show from Monday to Friday in Mexico City. I also work on another TV show, and take part in cycling competitions. It sounds like a lot, but it actually gives me time because I work probably 2-3 hours per day. Luckily, I feel that there are lots of similarities between Triathlon and my jobs, and they fit very well together. When I am working I feel like I am training and vice versa.

DNT: Did Miss Universe teach you something that can help you in other competitions like Challenge Vietnam?

Johana Solano: In think so. Many people will think that they have nothing in common as one is a beauty contest while the other is a sporting competition. However, I think that it prepared me to know that there will always be other people who are better than you, but it’s ok, you have to be the best you can be. I mean the competition needs to bring the best out of you and it helps to know how to handle it and not get too overwhelmed by the occasion.

DNT: Do you have any advice for the other competitors or people thinking of getting into Triathlon?

Johana Solano: The only advice I have is to enjoy it.

I know it sounds so easy, but it actually not easy when you are in pain and close to exhaustion, and at these  be hard to enjoy it. However, when that moment arrives, just try to put everything aside and think of your purpose to be here right now and this moment in this place. There are not so many people fortunate enough to be doing what you are doing right now.

I used to have no idea about real swimming, just tried to drown in the water, but I put a lot of effort into learning, and day by day, I began to improve. Start from small things but, at least start somewhere.

There are a lot of people who might believe that they cannot achieve their goals, but it depends on your choices.  Choose to surround yourself with people who always encourage you and believe in you.

DNT: So swimming is your weakness in comparison with cycling and running?

Johana Solano: Yes. Normally, good swimmers start when they are kids. It was a little hard for me to start my swimming from zero. 3.5 years ago, I could even get to the other side of the pool.

When I told my coach, I would join Triathlon, she told me that she could teach me how to swim the distance of the course, but she said that I would never become competitive. At that moment I believed her and it made me feel a little bad. However, it gave me the motivation to prove her wrong, and when I did my first Triathlon, I finished in 4th place.

Now I’m here in Vietnam racing in a big event, and I can’t imagine my life without Triathlon. It has taught me a lot. Even though I’ve had many accidents and injuries from the races, it just makes me stronger!

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