China’s Fang Zhou is a testament to what happens when you follow your heart.
A swimmer since elementary school, Fang Zhou has a tremendous list of accomplishments to his name. He was a member of the 2016 Chinese Triathlon Team and is one of the nation’s most talented triathletes. He finished in the top five at the Chinese National Triathlon Championships, and in the top 10 at the Jiayuguan ITU Triathlon Premium Asian Cup as well as the Fuzhou ITU Triathlon Premium Asian Cup.
“I started swimming before I was even seven,” said Fang Zhou. “Those swimming competitions set me up with a solid foundation when I transitioned to be a triathlete and a member of the Chinese National Triathlon team.”
Fang Zhou swam through his youth and became a professional triathlete before he was 18.
“I became a triathlete when I was 17,” said Fang Zhou. “At that time, I was on the provincial swimming team at AnHui Province. One day, the coach of BayYi People’s Liberation Army came to recruit athletes and I was lucky to be selected.”
Unfortunately, Fang Zhou suffered some significant injuries during the transition from water to dry land.
“It was such a glory to be on the Chinese National Team at the age of 20,” said Fang Zhou. “But the journey afterwards wasn’t smooth. I suffered a lot of injuries at the beginning but I was also amazed by the diverse training I was exposed to. After I recovered, I made progress rapidly.”
As a professional swimmer, Fang Zhou was a natural at triathlons once he learned cycling skills. Fang Zhou was quickly picked up by Santa Cruz bikes, and began to compete off-road.
“XTERRA off-road triathlon was new for me,” said Fang Zhou. “It’s challenging and exciting to work on controlling the mountain bike and improve my trail running.”
Because Fang Zhou was out of the water first in most off-road races, he took quickly to the dirt and rapidly improved his technical skills on the bike. He realized he was a natural to the off-road lifestyle and signed up for the XTERRA Training Camp in Taiwan in 2019 with XTERRA World Champ Nico Lebrun and XTERRA elite Renata Bucher.
“That intensive five-day training taught me so much,” said Fang Zhou. “And I made so many new training partners and friends.”
Because Fang Zhou lives in Beijing, he is able to take urban racers off-road.
“As a coach, I concentrate on helping my athletes find their peak physical and mental conditioning,” said Fang Zhou. “And because I love it so much, I want them to experience the off-road as well.”
This Sunday, Fang Zhou will compete in XTERRA Kunming in the modern Yunnan Province on September 21st. His goal is to win his age group and encourage other athletes to hit the trails.
“The mountain bike is challenging to many athletes,” said Fang Zhou. “But there is so much athletic potential in China. It’s not going to take long for our talent to be evident on the dirt.”