For Sebastian Kienle, being a professional triathlete has been a lifelong dream since his father took him to see his first triathlon. Last year’s win at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii was the fulfillment of his early promise as the first man to go under eight hours in his maiden iron distance race. But when did he start believing he could win world championships?

The three-time world champion looks back on his first world title at the 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas fondly. One photo captures that moment in time: a group shot of him with age-group athletes from Japan. Sebi says, “I think it was the first time that really a lot of people would like to have a picture with me. It was so funny with these guys from Japan because they were super excited.”

He continues, “I always had the dream about winning the biggest races in our sport, but from that point onwards the dreams became goals. I realized that I did not dream too big.”

Known as one of the new breed of German uberbikers in the mold of Jurgen Zack, Thomas Hellriegel, and Normann Stadler before him, Sebi’s bike strength as a junior had attracted the attention of cycling teams. All he ever wanted to do, however, was Ironman Hawaii. Now that he has achieved his dream, what drives him to keep improving?

“Sometimes it is just the pure joy of being able to do the sport as a living, sometimes it helps to think about my competition. But of course I live and train for the big races,” he reveals.

The 31-year-old is keenly aware of what has propelled him to success. “I’m able to chase one goal for more than ten, fifteen years. But in the end it is often the things you take for granted because you are used to them that separates you from the others. I guess it is called talent.”

That talent plus the willingness to put in the hard work to get the best out of himself has propelled him to the top of the sport. As Sebi continues his final preparations in Hawaii for the Ironman World Championship in October, he knows he has what it takes to stay focused, motivated, and believing in himself to stay on top.