Francisco Javier Gómez Noya – better known to us as Javier Gómez – has been dining at triathlon’s top table for nearly 20 years.
He’s one of the most successful, most decorated and most consistent triathletes of all time, having won more world championships than anyone else in history. And he’s not stopping any time soon.
Who is Javier Gómez?
Born in the Swiss city of Basle to Spanish parents, Gómez grew up in Galicia, in the north-west corner of Spain. As a child, he was a keen footballer and competitive swimmer, but changed his sporting allegiances to triathlon in his mid-teens.
Within a couple of years, his path to world-beating glory was potentially blocked when a routine medical uncovered an abnormal heart valve, leading to concerns about his continued participation in competition and a heavily protracted battle between Gómez and Spain’s sporting bodies.
During this time, he wasn’t selected to represent his country at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and, the following year, he was banned from competing both at home and abroad.
Lesser men would have thrown in the towel, but Gómez’s dedication and persistence won out. By then he’d already been crowned as the world U23 champion and has since won further world titles a-plenty across a range of distances, including an unprecedented five ITU World Championships between 2008 and 2015.
An especially fast swimmer, as well as a metronomic runner, during this time Gómez developed rivalries with many of the era’s greatest triathletes, among them Germany’s Jan Frodeno, Britain’s Brownlee brothers and his compatriot Mario Mola.
As such, he was one of the very brightest lights of this particular golden age.
Despite his phenomenal collection of titles and medals (he also scooped three successive World Cups between 2006 and 2008, as well as the Xterra world crown in 2012), Gómez’s career will always be very slightly tainted by Olympic disappointment.
After that non-selection in 2004, he arrived in Beijing in 2008 as many people’s favourite for gold, but he was outsprinted by those around him in the final few hundred metres.
The 2012 Games were his most successful, but he could only manage silver in London, where crowd favourite Alistair Brownlee was writing his own fairy-tale.
Gómez didn’t even make it to Rio in 2016 following a bike accident in training the month before. And by the time the pandemic-hit Tokyo Games of 2020 came around, he was way past his best at the Olympic distance.
But, like many of his contemporaries, further rewards were gratefully received when he went long later in his career, including two Ironman 70.3 world titles. A third this year might just be in the offing.
How old is Javier Gómez?
Javier Gómez was born on 25 March 1983, making him 39 years old.
Javier Gómez’s career highlights
December 2003: Wins the first of many world titles
Despite, at 20, being among the youngest competitors, Gómez wins gold at the ITU U23 World Championship in Queenstown, on New Zealand’s South Island.
November 2006: Triumph in Cancún earns his first World Cup crown
After victories in Madrid and Hamburg, and a second place in Beijing during the series, Gómez travels to Mexico to be crowned World Cup champion, winning in fine style on the streets of Cancún.
September 2007: Takes silver at the BG World Championships
Gómez makes his debut appearance on the elite podium at the world champs when he finishes four seconds behind Germany’s Daniel Unger in Hamburg, having put in a pack-leading sub-30-minute run.
June 2008: First taste of World Championship gold with Vancouver victory
After the disappointment of the previous September, Gómez confirms his standing as the world number one with a commanding win over New Zealand’s Bevan Docherty at the last world championships held as a one-off race.
July 2008: A hat-trick of successive World Cup crowns
The World Cup/World Championship double is secured with victory in Tiszaújváros in Hungary, following series wins in Mooloolaba, New Plymouth and Madrid.
August 2008: Misses out on medal in debut Olympics
Having not been selected for the 2004 Athens Olympics due to the ongoing row over his heart condition, Gómez is the red-hot favourite for gold at the Beijing Games, but is surprisingly dropped in the closing stages by medallists Jan Frodeno, Simon Whitfield and Bevan Docherty to finish fourth.
July 2009: Becomes European champion for the second time
Victory in Holten in the Netherlands gives Gómez his second European title, after victory in 2007. The silver goes to Alistair Brownlee, marking the start of a fierce rivalry at major championships between the Spaniard and the Englishman.
September 2010: A second world title comes the Spaniard’s way
Despite being beaten by Alistair Brownlee at the Grand Final in Budapest, Gómez has done enough during the season to reclaim the crown, the first time he’s become world champion since its reformation as a season-long series event.
August 2012: A first Olympic medal is secured – but it’s not gold
Roared on by a raucous and partisan crowd in London, Alistair Brownlee surges to Olympic immortality with a dominant victory over Gómez. But the Spaniard, after his failure in Beijing, offers a wave of celebration on crossing the line.
October 2012: Gómez proves to be a master of all terrains
An imperious swim sets up another all-conquering performance. Hawaii is the destination this time as the Xterra world title is added to an ever-lengthening palmares.
September 2014: Another world title – this one made of iron
Now in his thirties, Gómez marks his move into long-distance racing when, in Mont-Tremblant in French-speaking Canada, he proves himself to be le grand fromage, scooping the Ironman 70.3 world title, a feat he will repeat in 2017.
September 2015: A record-smashing fifth ITU world crown
If there was any doubt that Javier Gómez wasn’t among the true greats of the sport, his securing of the world title with a second place in Chicago proves it. Not only is it his third successive victory in the competition, it’s his fifth in all, eclipsing Simon Lessing’s long-held record.
July 2016: Training crash continues the Olympic hoodoo
With the Rio de Janeiro Olympics just a month away, a minor accident on his bike while training – resulting in a fractured arm – rules Gómez out of a third crack at Olympic glory. He’s forced to watch on TV as Alistair Brownlee tops the podium for a second successive Games.
June 2018: Makes an impressive Ironman debut
As the current Ironman 70.3 world champion, Gómez goes double-distance for the first time, recording a terrific sub-eight-hour time – and second place – at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships in Cairns.
May 2019: The world titles now reach double digits
Victory at the World Triathlon Long-Distance Championships, on his home turf of Pentevedra in Galicia, makes Javier Gómez a 10-time world champion – an extraordinary feat in such a competitive sport.
October 2019: A maiden triumph at the full distance
Just to prove he’s a man for all distances, Gómez takes his first full Ironman victory, beating the course record in Malaysia into the bargain.
July 2021: The final stab at Olympic immortality
At the age of 38, and having missed out on Rio in 2016, Gómez drops back to the shorter distance in one last, highly unlikely attempt to capture Olympic gold. He finishes 25th.
Javier Gómez quotes
On his battle against the authorities over his heart condition: “I have overcome a lot of obstacles. Some people have helped me, others haven’t. I can’t forget what has happened, but I want to look forward. I don’t want wars with anyone.”
On winning his fifth – and final – ITU World Championships title in 2015: “I think I will need some time, and maybe some years, to understand what I’ve done over the past nine years. It’s amazing and I’m really proud of my career.”
On his comparatively disappointing Olympic performances: “It’s an error to count on winning a medal in the triathlon. With one race every four years, anything can happen, especially in a sport as tactical as this where it isn’t always the strongest who wins.”
On drawing the curtain on his ITU career: “I raced the most talented triathletes in the world, of different generations, met amazing people and I’m honoured to be the athlete with more world titles and more wins in the sport”
On starting his 2022 season well with a win at Ironman 70.3 Pucon in Chile: “They say this is the most beautiful race in the world, which might be true. What they don’t tell you about is that it’s the most brutal course.”
What’s next for Javier Gómez?
Now very much into the early evening of a bright-shining, medal-heavy career, Gomez’s wetsuit and running shoes aren’t destined for the shelf just yet. More middle- and long-distance glory remains his ambition.
He started off the 2022 season in fine form, winning Ironman 70.3 Pucon in Chile. Don’t rule out a third 70.3 world title come Utah in October 2022.
Top image: Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images for IRONMAN