Lionel Sanders: From the fight for scraps to the golden age of triathlon – Elite News
Lionel Sanders says triathlon has gone from fighting for scraps to truly golden times as it prepares for an epic 2022 season.
The Canadian has been at the forefront of trying to grow the sport, with his ‘No Limits’ mantra and detailed social media updates attracting and educating new fans.
But despite his and others’ best efforts, the financial rewards available to elite competitors have been disappointing. This means that the best race is often a pipe dream. So far that’s it.
The massive investment in the sport of the PTO (Professional Triathletes Organisation) really kicks off for 2022 with the introduction of two huge races – the Canadian Open in Edmonton in July and the US Open in Dallas in September. Each will offer a total of $1 million in prizes.
PTO is a game changer
Sanders, talk to the PTO in a video interview, cited a very recent personal example to illustrate the issues that triathlon has struggled with – and to highlight why the rise of PTO is a game-changer.
“Obviously the money brings people to the table, no doubt. And that’s part of the problem for us to have a really competitive racing circuit all year round because we’ve been fighting for so long for the scrap.
“For example, I did Galveston 70.3 at the start of the season in 2021 and the top prize was $4,000 and I spent about $3,000 to get my wife there, plane tickets, Airbnb , Talbot my videographer, etc. So I made maybe $1,000 at best, if you factor in the food, I probably broke even.
“Finally, there’s enough for all of us to come to this race and make some money and compete against the best guys in the world. And that’s what people, I believe, want to see.
“So there’s only good that’s going to come out of this for all the pros, for the whole sport. I think it’s a wonderful undertaking and I’m very happy to be a part of it.
Sanders is aiming for a home win
PTO’s first major will of course take place on what is Lionel’s home ground – in Edmonton, Canada. It will be a special moment, and something in which he will do everything to try to win.
“It’s amazing, it’s wonderful. it’s going to be a huge goal for me to try to lead the first major. And it will certainly be my big goal for the season to win it at home.
“In fact, my only world title was in Canada at the ITU Long Course World Championships in 2017, so I raced well there and the crowd support definitely helps.
“We have such a rich history in triathlon, I think it’s fitting that Canada has the first major PTO and I think the PTO and all parties involved are very passionate and have great vision. And I see it’s something big and still growing for many years to come and so I’m excited to be a part of it.
“It’s a monumental race, I really believe we’re finally in a golden age. We have the right athletes, the right personalities, the right investors, the right people in charge of these investments and so this is really the start.
“The Collins Cup was like testing the concept and here we go, it’s the start. And so to win the start when 20 years from now the guys are going to look at this race as literally the start of what has become a real professional circuit that people are really going to want to win – that would probably be one of the highlights of my career.”
The triathlon in the spotlight
Sanders’ substance abuse issues earlier in life are well documented, and the sport of triathlon played a major role in overcoming them.
He said: “I obviously believe in triathlon, I believe triathlon saved my life. Triathlon, I believe, will provide more social utility in terms of motivation and that kind of stuff than some of the things I And so I think the PTO is going to help lift us up and unite us so that we can introduce this great sport to the world.
“It’s just a great sport that I believe creates lifelong learners, lifelong participants. And so I believe that’s what they (the PTO) bring to us to then allow us to show that to the world and inspire people and bring them on board.