Mario Mola: Background, career highlights, quotes

He's a three-time world champion and perhaps the nicest man in tri… Yes, it's Mario Mola. Here's everything you need to know about the speedy Spaniard…

Mario Mola of Spain wins the sprint distance at the Hamburg Wasser ITU World Triathlon Championships on July 15, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany

One of the most successful Olympic-distance triathletes of recent times, Mario Mola’s hat-trick of world titles ensures he’s one of the sport’s immortals.


Who is Mario Mola?

What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? No, it’s more likely to be Mario Mola.

The man from Mallorca has made his formidable triathlon reputation based around his unimpeachable running ability, causing many better swimmers and cyclists to look nervously in their figurative rear-view mirrors.

At the peak of his powers, if Mola was ever within touching distance of the race lead coming out of T2, it would be a brave, or foolhardy, person who would bet against the Spaniard having a gold medal around his neck come the end of the race.

Mola’s reputation has translated into a multitude of medals over the years. He won his first triathlon world title – the junior version – in 2009 at the age of 19, by which time he was also a world champion at duathlon, albeit at relay.

A year later, he announced himself on the ITU scene with fifth place in London in only his second race in the series. Since then, he’s become one of the most consistent competitors on the globetrotting WTS circuit, almost always in the mix whenever a race reaches its sharp end.

In 2013, he won the overall series bronze, which he upgraded the following year to a silver. Another silver came in 2015, his path to the top spot blocked by his all-conquering compatriot Javier Gómez.

Mario Mola and Richard Murray celebrate at the line at the 2016 Grand Final in Cozumel, Mexico. (Credit: Janos Schmidt/ITU)

In 2016, though, Mola took full advantage of his fellow Spaniard’s injury-affected season to claim the world crown for his own. And he wasn’t prepared to relinquish it once his great rival returned to competition.

Mola successfully retained the title, effectively ending the Gómez era of domination. A third successive world championship arrived 12 months later – and another overall silver in 2019.

In more recent times, Mola’s form has declined as a new wave of middle-distance triathletes has emerged, and that elusive Olympic medal remained out of reach.

But, as he contemplates a future in half-Iron events, Mario Mola’s status as one of the most-decorated ITU athletes ever can never be denied.

How old is Mario Mola?

Mario Mola was born on February 23 1990, making him 32 years of age.

Mario Mola’s career highlights

L-R: Javier Gomez (2nd), Mario Mola (1st) and Kristian Blummenfelt (3rd) – the 2017 World Triathlon Series top three. (Credit: ITU Media/Wagner Araujo)

September 2009: The first of several world triathlon titles

On Australia’s Gold Coast, the 19-year-old Mola feels on top of the world after holding off the challenge of one of his future great rivals, Britain’s Jonny Brownlee, to become the world junior champion.

(By this point, Mola is already a junior European and world champion at duathlon.)

April 2010: Maiden win in the elite ranks

Mola records his first success as an elite male athlete with victory in the ITU World Cup race at Quarteira on Portugal’s Algarve coast. The Mallorcan is clearly match-fit for elite competition.

July 2010: A first top-five ITU placing

Having made his ITU World Triathlon Series debut on home soil in Madrid the previous month (when he came 47th), Mola’s second appearance in the series in London was somewhat better.

It takes athletes of the calibre of Gómez, the younger Brownlee and Jan Frodeno to keep Mola in fifth place.

August 2012: Makes his Olympic debut

Finishes down in 19th at the London Games, as his compatriot Gomez takes silver in between the local heroes, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.

April 2013: An overdue WTS podium is finally achieved

Auckland 2013 WTS race winner Javier Gomez congratulates compatriot and friend Mario Mola who finished second. (Credit: Delly Carr/ITU)

Mola delivers a handsome performance to take silver in Auckland, beaten only by his compatriot Gómez, in whose shadow he’ll remain for a few years. Nonetheless, his performance in New Zealand kicks off Mola’s best season to date.

September 2013: Among the series medals for the first time

That best-yet season has been defined by a fine degree of consistency, with Mola recording seven top-five finishes around the world.

The podium places at the last of these, the Grand Final in London, mirrors the overall series result, with Gómez taking his second world crown ahead of Jonny Brownlee. Mola takes overall bronze.

May 2014: A maiden WTS triumph

Mario Mola breaks away to win his first World Triathlon race at the 2014 London event. (Credit: Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Threadneedle Investments)

After strong showings in Cape Town and Yokohama, Mola scores his first ITU race win by a single second in London ahead of South Africa’s Richard Murray and João Pereira of Portugal.

Mola’s great rivals – the Brownlee boys and world champ Gómez – surprisingly finish off the podium. At the end of the season, Mola bags the series silver. One step closer.

September 2015: Silver number two in Chicago

Victory in the Grand Final confirms a second successive overall silver for the Mallorcan. His fellow countryman, and now five-time world champion, Gómez still holds seniority.

July 2016: The prince becomes king

In posting the fastest run split, Mola comfortably wins in Hamburg. It’s his fourth victory in this year’s series (after breaking the tape in Abu Dhabi, the Gold Coast and Yokohama), all but already confirming him as world champion.

His coronation will come in Cozumel in September. But is his triumph a comparatively hollow one, as Gómez has been injured for much of the season, racing just one WTS event.

August 2016: Blame it on Rio

Mario Mola competing in his second of three Olympic Games, this time in Rio 2016, where he would finish eighth. (Credit: Delly Carr/ITU)

Despite heading to Rio as many people’s favourite for gold (especially with Gómez’s withdrawal with a broken arm), Mola disappoints in Brazil, finishing down in eighth, a minute and a half down on gold medallist Alistair Brownlee.

September 2017: The world title is retained

Any doubts that Gómez’s absence was a main reason for Mola’s 2016 world title are quashed when his third place in the Rotterdam Grand Final secures his second successive crown after wins in the Gold Coast, Yokohama, Hamburg and Edmonton.

September 2018: Three of a kind

Vincent Luis wins the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia, but Mario Mola takes the overall title. (Credit: Delly Carr/Getty Images)

On the Gold Coast, Mola’s second place secures his hat-trick of world titles. He wins the series at a canter, thanks to a near-impeccable set of results – four race wins and two silvers.

Although undeniably the number one on the WTS circuit, he now has a new rival: his training mate, the Frenchman Vincent Luis.

March 2019: The crown slips

Mola starts the season well with victory in Abu Dhabi. Could an unprecedented fourth successive world title be his? Three finishes outside the top 20 in Bermuda, Yokohama and Leeds answer that question.

Mola still takes the overall silver, but Luis is now the king of the castle.

July 2021: Dashed Olympic dreams again

Mario Mola competing in his third and final Olympic Games in Tokyo, 2021. (Credit: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite his drawer-ful of WTS medals, Mola still has room for the most prestigious of all: one with the five Olympic rings on it.

But his time has passed and he finishes 1oth at the delayed Tokyo Games as the new guard – represented by the likes of Kristian Blummenfelt and Alex Yee – disappear into the distance.

Mario Mola in quotes

On the power of his running: “I’m used to having to race from further back because in the past I struggled in the water. Swimming was my worst discipline. And I’ve always had to fight hard on the bike and deal with the run without the freshest legs.”

On what makes an ITU world champion: “Being healthy and consistent during the eight months of competition is what gets you the opportunity to fight for the title. You really need wins and podiums to have that chance.”

On the pandemic dictating that the 2020 ITU world title would be decided by a single race (Mola would finish 46th): “I value positively that we can compete in an international event. I think that is good for everyone. But, without a doubt, it is not fair to equate it to a world championship like the one we have had in recent years.”

What’s next for Mario Mola?

After his disappointment at the Tokyo Olympics, and bearing in mind his age, it was perhaps surprising to see Mola return to ITU racing in the 2022 season.

However, having dipped a toe into middle-distance races, such as in Zarautz in the Basque Country and in Portocolom on his home island of Mallorca, half-Iron competition appears to be the logical step for this legend of the sport.


Top image credit: Joern Pollex/Getty Images for WTS