Swimming’s loss was triathlon’s gain when Manuel Kueng switched to the latter in 2005 and he has not looked back since, winning a series of short-distance races before graduating to 70.3 in 2012 and the full IRONMAN distance soon afterwards.
The Swiss star had always shown an aptitude for sport from a young age and by 10 was active in karate, gymnastics, skiing, snowboarding and skating, as well as swimming.
He then focused on swimming and formed a training group with Chantal Strasser (who went on to compete in three successive Olympics).
“As a multiple Eastern Swiss champion in short and long-distance crawl, I was facing a promising swimming career,” he said.
However, in order to make further progress Manuel would have had to double his workload to 10-12 sessions a week.
“With the end of my school days and the start of my apprenticeship as a sports retail specialist, this effort was no longer feasible,” he explained.
Fortunately, the father of one of his swimming colleagues had noticed Manuel’s talent for different sports, and encouraged him to try triathlon.
“Without much preparation - two days before I sat on a racing bike with clipless pedals for the first time - it was enough back then to get on the podium,” he recalled.
“The competition was tough, but at the same time it gave me great pleasure. This was the trigger to swim a little less, but to do additional cycling and running training. Slowly but surely I switched to the sport of triathlon.”
Qualification for the Junior World Championships in 2006 followed and three years later he was crowned under-23 Swiss champion.
His first domestic senior successes arrived in 2012 as he became Swiss National Champion over the Sprint and Olympic events. He then made his presence felt on the international stage with a maiden IRONMAN 70.3 triumph in Luxembourg in 2015.
Manuel repeated the Luxembourg win in 2018 and the following year showed he was ready to contend for full-distance honours with fourth place in Cozumel.