It was a short conversation with a friend that inspired elite triathlete Natalie Van Coevorden, a Campbelltown and Macarthur Triathlon Club local, to pick up stumps this year and make the bold decision to relocate to Portugal.
“He said, ‘If you’re the best person in the room, you’re in the wrong room’”, Van Coevorden told Triathlon NSW. “At that moment, I knew I really needed to trust my instinct and… move overseas. I knew the girls on the squad [in Portugal] were some of the best in the world and I would be silly not to test myself on a daily basis with them.”
Van Coevorden has joined The Triathlon Squad, an elite training group of athletes heralding from ITU to Ironman, coached by Paulo Sousa and based (for now) on the beach in Monte Gordo. The town is a triathlete’s dream, with safe and quiet riding, local trail runs and – importantly – cheap coffee and pastries.
“It is crazy how many athletes are here at the moment using the facilities and after spending a week here, I can understand why they come,” says Van Coevorden. “I am staying in an apartment with Summer Rappaport and it’s close by to everything that we need to make training and life around training easy.”
Of the squad of thirteen, ten are girls, many of whom Van Coevorden already knows from the World Triathlon Series (WTS) circuit. It’s a welcome change for the Macarthur Tri Club golden girl, who spent the end of last year coaching herself after the dissolving of the high performance squad in Wollongong.
“I haven't been surrounded by this many people in a long time and it’s nice to vary your training with different people in the squad for every session. Everyone has been so welcoming.”
Van Coevorden has steadily made a name for herself on the international stage, with her first WTS podium at Abu Dhabi in 2018, and her best ever WTS result in Bermuda last year. The new season begins this March in Abu Dhabi, and as it is an Olympic year, Natalie is laying her cards on the table.
“The start of the season is really important to me as that is our last opportunity to show selectors what I can do before Olympic selection in both individual and the mixed relay.”
With a new squad and new coach, Van Coevorden has made a defining start to 2020. But her life in Monte Gordo is not complete without a few homely comforts.
“I normally have Promite, tins of Sustagen Sport and some Australian coffee beans for my Aeropress,” she explains. “If I could bring one [more] thing, I would bring a yearly supply of café-style raisin toast.”
We wish Natalie all the best in her training and racing this year, and thank her for taking the time to chat to us.
To keep in touch with Natalie & her new squad on Instagram, follow @natalie.vc, @pstriathlon and #thetriathlonsquad.