Two pro rookies with the same goal but two different stories

Sabrina Exenberger is a teacher, mum and professional triathlete. Jan Schiebl is a student and professional triathlete. Both will make their debut in the professional field at Challenge St. Pölten. We talked to them about their goals, dreams and their start at Challenge St. Pölten.

In love from second one

In the context of her teaching studies, Sabrina completed a crawl course and stood on the starting line at her first triathlon in Kirchbichl without any specific preparation and was enthusiastic about the sport from minute one. A lot has happened since her first start, but her love for triathlon has remained. She wanted to start as a professional in 2020, but a serious mountain accident slowed her down. “I was told again and again that I would never be able to do triathlon again, and certainly not competitive sport,” she says. “But it was exactly these statements that motivated me even more to stick to my dream.” A long rehab and a not always easy path back to sport are behind her. In 2020, she became a mother of a daughter and was back on the starting line just a few months later.

Back to the starting line

St. Pölten was not only her first competition after this challenging and formative time, but is now also her entry as a professional triathlete. After a successful season as an age group athlete, she now wants to take the step. “St. Pölten is on my calendar every year,” says the Tyrolean. “The event is always top organised and the whole course is unique.” Due to a handicap, she is not the best swimmer and usually comes out of the water at the back, she continues. On the bike, however, she can play to her strengths and a lot is possible on the run, too. She remembers the race as always exciting until the end. When asked about her goals, she has a clear answer: “I don’t set myself any goals, because I’m just happy and incredibly grateful that I can do sport. The results come naturally with fun and joy. From a wheelchair to a professional triathlete – when dreams come true anyway.”

Family sport triathlon

Jan is making his debut in the men’s professional field. The 22-year-old is studying to be a teacher and devotes himself entirely to the sport of triathlon alongside his studies. He started for fun at a children’s triathlon when he was eight or nine years old. “I’ve actually always played football. I did my first sprint distance at the age of 15,” says the Krems native. Triathlon was, or rather is, a family sport with the Schiebl’s and so he continued to pursue the hobby. With the 2022 performance scholarship with his current coach Gerald Dygryn, he started on the path to professional sport.

Just give it a try

“It wasn’t planned to start as a pro this year already,” he says with a laugh. “But I’ve made pretty big leaps in performance and accordingly we decided to give it a try.” His approach to sport and training has changed a lot since he started training with his current coach. Before, he wrote his own training plans and trained in his spare time. Now the sport has become the central focus. The start of the season is now right around the corner. “St. Pölten is almost a home race for me. The bike course goes past my girlfriend’s house and as a Kremser I know the area very well,” he says. He also has good memories of the race. In 2021 he did his first middle distance here, in 2022 he was the second best AG athlete at only 21 years of age. Success is a good motivator for Jan. Nevertheless, he remains grounded and clearly states gaining experience as the big goal for this year.