He’s achieved the status of one of the most inspiring newcomers you haven’t heard of yet

By Eric Nicole Salta | Lead photo from Instagram

Comparisons to Matteo Guidicelli have always been part of Donikko Fernan’s burgeoning triathlon career. It was Matteo after all who compelled the young Fernan into the sport. But upon accepting his cousin’s challenge, it was also the beginning of his rollercoaster adventure.

A far cry from Fernan’s football days, triathlon pushed the 24-year-old looker into situations he never thought he could deal with it—like completing an Ironman 70.3 on his first attempt (in his home city no less). And while his plunge into the sport stems from Matteo’s cheeky brand of coercion, Fernan’s made use of this opportunity to grow, earning praises from his teammates and proving that anyone can venture into triathlon’s uncharted territories and revel in results like this.

How was your performance at Ironman 70.3 in Cebu and at the Mt. Mayon Tri? Now that you’ve had time to think and process the achievements, how do you feel about completing those two races?

It was five hours and 54 minutes of mind games. The swim for Ironman 70.3 was hard, while the run for Mt. Mayon was painful—being under the intense heat was no joke. The Cebu vibe was wonderful and it was great seeing so many familiar faces. Both Ironman 70.3 and Mt. Mayon races were tough challenges for me. I trusted myself and I trusted my training. Although I know that I could’ve done better, I’m very happy with how everything turned out, and I thank the Lord that I finished both races safely.

Are you surprised that you’re capable of doing triathlon?

It came as a surprise actually. Triathlon is a valuable reminder to me to never underestimate what you’re capable of. You would be surprised with what you could accomplish if you put your mind to it.

What has been the most surprising change since you started?

It’s amazing how committing myself to triathlon could have such a significant impact on my lifestyle; little things like the habit of getting up early and eating healthy have been two of the most life-changing things I have adopted since. I have also rediscovered my body  where I learned that there’s so much your body can do that your mind limits it to. Being able to measure progress objectively is something that I enjoy.

How has triathlon helped other aspects of your life?

I have become a fairly disciplined person because of triathlon. I feel as though I am more aware of how each of my actions throughout the day affects a specific outcome in my training process.

What are your thoughts on Ironman Philippines 2018?

For sure, that will be one for the books. That’s a year from now. I think that’s too soon for me. The commitment requires more time than I have right now. I am still new to this craft. I just did my very first ever Ironman 70.3, so I just want to focus more on that and the Olympic distance for now. I have a long, long way to go. But I have nothing but big hopes for Ironman 2018.

Who do you credit most for your success?

For the past year, I have dedicated myself completely to the sport. I have been fortunate enough to have Matteo and the Guidicellis and the whole Ford Forza Triathlon Team who have been a huge part in getting me to where I am today; and to my family, who has been my biggest support system, thank you.

Who’s better: you or Matteo?

Matteo, in a heartbeat. He is and will always be someone I look up to.

Seriously, there’s no friendly competition or rivalry?

Of course there is healthy competition. We always compare our time when we race and he always pushes me. Soon matatalo ko din si Matteo! [laughs]

What’s next for you? Are you actively training for something specific?

I’m just trying to keep an active lifestyle every day. I am going to take part in the 5150 race this November. I’m so excited for all there is to come.