Ajla Del Ponte
Ajla Del Ponte is a Swiss sprinter. She started track and field in 2009, competing mainly in jumps. She switched to sprinting in 2013 and in 2014 she qualified for the World Juniors in Eugene, Oregon. She competed in the 100 meters and placed 5th with the 4x100 relay team. In 2016 she made an important decision to change coaches, going to train with Laurent Meuwly. She improved her personal best from 11.82 to 11.52 and qualified with the 4x100 relay team for the Rio Olympics. Since then, she’s been a stable member of the Swiss quartet that finished 4th in Doha’s World Championship in 2019. She just ran her personal best twice in one day for 100 meters, first running 11.10 and following it with 11.08. Her time of 23.07 is currently her best in the 200 meters, and she aims to qualify for both events at the Olympics. Apart from being an athlete, she’s a history and Italian literature student at the university of Lausanne.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
I’m very curious in general, and I would like to discover what my limit is. How fast can you really run? How far can you push your body? Also, I enjoy what I'm doing every day and I’m really grateful for the life I get to live. Running makes me happy.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
Sometimes it’s normal to have harder days. These days, I just remember that my family is supporting me with what I do. I’m often away from home and I really want to know that what I do is worth it.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
This year since everything we planned has been cancelled or postponed, the goal is still to see where I can improve and be consistent to build upon that in the next few years. We have to remember that the body of an athlete is like a house, when you build it, you cannot just decide to skip a row of bricks because “it’s not worth it”. So it’s the same with training, we’re not going to waste a year just because major championships are not going to happen and we will keep building on our bases.
What's it like being a part of the national record 4x100 relay team?
As a young athlete, I remember seeing a lot of advertisements about the Zurich European Championships in 2014. The 4x100 was everywhere. I was thinking about how cool would it be to be part of it. Now that I’m a part of the team since 2016, I really can say that I appreciate the other girls so much. I enjoy each training session. We have a great connection and a lot of fun. When we run in Switzerland’s Diamond Leagues, we feel a lot of appreciation from the public. It’s just great to represent the country in such a cool way.
What has been your most memorable race to date?
Probably the London World Championship in 2017. The British audience was unique and the atmosphere was just incredible. I remember smiling before the start of the 4x100 heats, where we qualified Switzerland for the first time in history for a major final. At least 50,000 people were singing “Sweet Caroline”by Neil Diamond. It’s moments like those that make you love to be on a track.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
We mainly focus on legs, as for sprinting you need a lot of power. The exercise that helps me most, even though I don’t like it, is hip thrusts. It really helps to build up a lot of explosive power in the glutes and in the hamstrings. I have to admit that I don’t particularly love gym sessions, especially when it gets heavy, but I know I really need heavy lifting for running fast.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
We were doing speed work one day, and my coach was pulling me with a speedy and managed to fall down the moment I was passing him. The best thing about it is the video of it. He didn’t get hurt, I promise!
What did you learn the most from your experience competing in the Olympics?
Before the Olympics I really wasn't experienced with big competitions. Since then, I've been able to avoid stressing myself out and I know that if you follow your gut and your dreams, you will accomplish some cool things.
What's it like to represent your country on some of the biggest stages in the sport?
It’s just an honor. I dreamt about going to the Olympics and World Championships every time I watched the events on my couch at home. Then, when you actually do it, you're really proud and you’re driven by that to accomplish the best you can.
What's it like being a part of the Puma team?
Being a Puma athlete means being part of a powerful community. It’s like being in a big family. Every athlete is driven by “Forever Faster”, and that is surely something that motivates us a lot. I’m really grateful for being part of the Team since 2017.
Who would you say is the funniest teammate?
It would probably be Fanette Humair, member of the Swiss 4x400 team. She’s crazy and if you ever meet her you'll know what I mean. Everybody needs a Fanette in their lives.
Do you like ice baths?
I hate ice baths! My feet don’t like the cold and my head hurts because of it. I have to figure out ways to keep them out of the water and end up looking like a mermaid every time because of my technique, which amuses my teammates.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobbies do you enjoy?
Mainly I read or study. I’m really passionate by learning new things. When I manage not to stress too much about it, I can relax and take some time for me. I also go to museums, listen to music, play piano or go for a walk with my family and friends.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
Find your own pace. As a short sprinter I always struggled to keep others rhythm and was slower in longer runs. At first I had trouble understanding that, but each of us is different and you don’t need to look at what others do or don’t do.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
I look up to the people that surround me. In Switzerland we have great athletes and I’m lucky enough to train or have trained with most of them. On an international level, Shelly-Ann Fraser Price is just an incredible athlete, as Allyson Felix is. They have a different style of running but both are great inspirations, as well as it comes to personality. Also, they are both mothers, which gives a new wave of inspiration to the new generations.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
One of my best friends, a former 400 meter hurdler athlete, Alex, is the best training buddy. He’s always coming to support me in some VO2Max training sessions, which I don’t particularly like. They are too easy for him.
What is your biggest fear?
Letting myself down, not accomplishing my goals. I tend to set a really high standard for myself, in both life and sport. I guess it’s what makes people achieve their most beautiful experiences.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Bad manners are surely a big pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand when people are rude or just in the mood to treat others badly without a particular reason. For the world to be better, we need more education, when it comes to climate change, racism, or to sum it up, respect for others persons, species and the environment.
Did you ever imagine you'd be where you are today in the sport?
Just recently I ran 16.71 for 150 meters. That’s a world top result and I’m still not believing that I could ever run on a world class level. When I started it was just about seeing friends, and now running is my job. Life takes you places that you would never expect.
What's next for Ajla Del Ponte?
Some competitions are finally planned for this summer. Next year I hope that the Olympics will take place and I should finish my masters! A lot of exciting things.
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