The Road to TEAM USA
Thank you for being part of our zine. Tell us more about your beginnings as an athlete!
Thank you for having me—I appreciate it a lot!
I grew up with a very athletic brother who is 11 years older than me. Being in absolute awe of him, I wanted to do everything just like him –possibly better (which was never the case).
This made me extremely competitive and tomboyish and I engaged in a lot of physical activities from childhood on. Breakdance, street dance, soccer, BMX, and skateboarding were apart of my daily activities growing up. I spent most of my time outside on the streets, the fields or out in the woods.
After going through some personal struggles at home, I picked up running as my ‘go-to’ sport to literally run away from my troubles. This sport really grew on me and I started running more often until I met my coach Ulrike Bruns, who won the Bronze Medal in the Olympic Games in 1976.
Fast forward, she started to build me into a middle-distance runner with a focus on the 800m. I trained twice a day, sometimes three times a day and won regional and national championships. In 2008, I got recruited by a college in New York to run track & cross-country.
Now, I am a triathlete competing in anything from the Sprint Triathlon to the full Ironman.
Where are you located now and where are you originally from?
I am originally from Potsdam, Germany, but moved to the United States in 2008 where I lived in NYC for almost 9 years. Now, I am located in Santa Barbara, California.
Goals for 2019 and beyond?
The 2019 Triathlon Season is over, but I am trying to make Team USA next year in the Olympic Distance. I also just started a nonprofit project in which I help underprivileged kids in Africa to get a sports scholarship in the USA. My goal is to really get this going in 2020.
What have been the specific challenges in your career so far? What have been the greatest achievements so far?
As far as my athletic career goes, I hit a wall when I got really sick to the point I was not allowed to compete or even train for two years. That was the biggest challenge as I was trying to get international championships and sponsorships in the 800m.
Besides that, I had multiple stress fractures and other injuries that I had to overcome throughout the years which is just part of the game, I guess.
Professionally, it was very challenging for me as an immigrant to get hired for jobs as I needed a sponsor. It is not always the number one choice for employers as they have to prove that I am the only one capable of performing the job compared to an American employee. In addition, once you get laid off, you have exactly 30 days to find a new job with a sponsor or you will get deported.
My biggest athletic achievements were definitely the high rankings in middle-distance running in Germany, but also the fact that sport got me into the USA. Something, I am extremely thankful for.
The Ironman Italy was another highlight in my career as well as the SOS Triathlon. And, not to mention, the fact that I qualified for the National Championships in this sport.
I am extremely proud that I made it in New York all by myself and received my green card this summer after 11 years of living in the USA. This was a very big burden that was taken off of me, for sure, and I am proud that I made it this far choosing the ‘road less traveled’.
Where can our readers catch up with you out there soon? Any events coming up? Anything you're working on?
I am always announcing new partnerships, supporters, and updates on my nonprofit on my website as well as on my social media on a regular basis. The try-outs for TEAM USA are next year in August in Milwaukee.
How has your experience been being a woman in the athletic industry? Any struggles?
I am happy to say that I never struggled as a female athlete with the ‘industry’. I did at one point compete in bodybuilding but realized that it is a very subjective sport in which one is judged by looks and less likely performance—even though there is a tremendous amount of work behind this specific ‘look’.
At that point, I decided that it wasn’t the sport for me. In addition, I guess the fact that I grew up with an older brother and hung out with guys more due to dancing and skating made me less ‘soft’ in training and competition. Track can be very physical as in the 800m. You have to fight for your spot on the inside lane and use some force to do so. I never had an issue with that.
That also applies to triathlons, as the swim start is mostly a mass start and you are literally fighting yourself through the water up to the first buoy. There is no time to hold back because that will cause you a spot or two.
In Germany, I struggled with an eating disorder as I wanted/needed to be as skinny as possible to be as fast as possible. It became a terrible obsession, which in the end, cost me my professional running career.
Who are your top inspirations?
I look up to my former track coach who made it this far to the Olympic Games, even though she lived in communist Germany at that time. It was a huge achievement to be able to train and compete during the Cold War as this was the ONLY chance to actually see the world and represent East Germany.
Of course, I am inspired by the other German triathletes who made it that far in the World Championships: Anne Haug, Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle—just to name a few.
How do you take care of your emotional, physical, and spiritual self when you are worn down? What are specific regimens you swear by to keep in tip-top shape?
I am glad I picked up triathlon as my sport of choice as it is probably the most influential activity to keep my sanity when I am feeling down. Running, especially, helps me to cope with certain struggles I am facing.
Music was and still has a very big meaning for me, as well, and helps me to get where I need to go. Be it only white noise or a loud song during a training interval—it gets me going.
Since I have a coach who writes my training plans, I do not need to have a specific regimen to keep in shape. I train twice a day between 3 and 5 hours ---that keeps me fit as it is.
What would you say to young girls looking to make their fitness dreams come true?
I honestly do not really like the term ‘fitness’ since now with the huge exposure in the world of social media, it became a really unrealistic ideal. Everyone now seems to be a ‘fitness model’ and shows off their hard-rock abs and wonderful glutes. It gives girls a false perception of what is considered ‘fit’ or ‘ideal’ and it’s sad that it’s become the dream or the standard with the actual performance being overlooked.
In the past, ‘survival of the fittest’ literally meant to survive because one was superior in running away from the predator or being able to sustain a longer dry period. It was pure performance compared to the weaker individual. Predators didn’t care about your six-pack or your perfect butt –they would eat you regardless.
I just wish more girls would thrive in sports that make them feel good, simply because they are good at them. I wish they would use sports to grow as women within a community of other athletes that empower them to be better athletes, and more importantly better people. Sports has that power to do wonders.
My IG : patneubauer
My website : www.neupower.org