When Sam Long says of triathletes “I think we’re just a little bit psycho” it’s an entirely positive statement – it’s exactly why he took up the sport.
‘The Big Unit’ is fast becoming one of the biggest names in the sport, with his talent and personality making him a potential superstar of long-distance racing.
The 25-year-old from Boulder again showcased his skillset recently by running out a convincing winner of IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene in stifling summer temperatures in Idaho.
The next big event circled on Sam’s calendar is the inaugural Collins Cup in Šamorín in August. As one of the PTO’s most intriguing athletes, he took part in the ‘Unbreakable’ documentary series – which takes an in-depth look at some of the names who could be lining up in Slovakia.
Triathlon has endless limits – Long
Long gave a thoughtful take on the mentality which triathletes possess, and how it is different from other sports stars.
“It’s an unknown road ahead and that the limits are really endless and that’s what’s most exciting. It makes me want to go faster than anybody’s ever gone before.
“The biggest thing between triathletes and other athletes is that we’ve got three sports to do so we’re doing a three-a-day. 340 days of the year that’s just a fact.
“And I think we’re just a little bit psycho. And that’s kind of why I became a triathlete. I was like this is the coolest thing of all time but I also realise that’s a little bit psycho. And I think we’re all kind of like that.”
One thing most great athletes possess is the desire and hunger to win, and with that comes the pain which accompanies a defeat. Long can identify intimately with that.
“The problem is losing hurts so much and losing haunts me for so long that I have to chase being number one.
Long’s obsession with winning
“It’s gotten to a point where it’s almost this obsession I don’t even have to think about reasons, it’s just become this, like, monster inside of me.
“I’m a competitive guy and I need goals to chase and when all the goals were erased from the calendar I set my own goals.
“And then I put it out there and people said ‘wow this guy’s got some crazy goals’. But then I went after and achieved almost every single one of them.”
Long knows his outgoing persona and confidence has put a target on his back, but to an extent he believes that is a wrong perception.
“Anytime my competitors race me right now they want to destroy me because they they’ve got it out for me,” he explained.
“I think my confidence has been perceived as cockiness and brashness and trying to rub people the wrong way and that I don’t really respect the rules of the sport
“Some of the rules of the sport are ridiculous but I do respect my competitors, always. But it’s okay to say: ‘I want to go faster than you and I think I can go faster than you’.
“I just want other athletes to be themselves and to not be shy about being themselves and if they’re still quiet individuals then I’m completely happy.”
A sensitive side to Sam
The way he can polarise opinion can trigger the sensitive nature in Sam, a side to him many do not get to see.
“I think I’m someone who’s already kind of divided people a lot. You might have a hundred fans and one hater but that hater stings the most. You go to bed at night and you’re thinking about that one hater often and so it’s hard to deal with honestly.
“I can come off as social media, being so confident and being so clear but often I’m so nervous and I feel like I’m ripping the earth apart and I just don’t know if it’s going to be right.
“I just do and live by who i am and that’s all I can do.”
Sam is currently ranked #1 in the bid for an automatic Collins Cup berth for Team USA ahead of the battle with Team Europe and Team Internationals in Slovakia in August. The showpiece event is scheduled for Saturday August 28.