Sam Long’s unwavering enthusiasm and immense ability have combined to make him a potential superstar of the future.
Born in Boulder, Colarado, in December 1995, he has established himself as one of America’s top long-distance athletes with his ever-growing haul of 70.3 and full IRONMAN medals evidence of his talent.
Long completed his first full IRONMAN aged 18, and five years later he became the youngest American to win a full IRONMAN race.
Standing at six foot four Sam is fondly nicknamed ‘Big Unit’ and is renowned for his ‘Yo, Yo, Yo!’ greeting. With a personality to match his stature, he has become a prominent figure in the sport.
Such is his fearless approach, he has sparked up an intriguing rivalry with one of triathlon’s most decorated athletes – and his idol – in Lionel Sanders.
When the competitive race calendar was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, Long challenged the Canadian to a battle to be crowned ‘King of the Mountain’ on the 34km uphill bike route at Mount Lemmon in Arizona. As the pair sought to outdo each other’s times on Strava, a mutual respect and friendship was formed.
When competitive racing returned, they continued to push each other to the absolute limit with their epic IRONMAN 70.3 St. George showdown epitomising their competitive natures.
Though Long lost out on that occasion, the five-second margin to an athlete of Sanders’ stature was yet another nod to the American’s bright future.
He is ferociously quick ‘on land’, thanks to what he jokes are ‘the strongest legs in triathlon’, but his performance at the inaugural Collins Cup highlighted his relative weakness in the water. Up against Jan Frodeno and Sam Appleton, Long was four-and-a-half minutes down after the swim, which he admitted was a stark reminder of the improvements he needs to make after coming home third in his match-up.
Career record and results
Long has won two full IRONMAN races and numerous events at 70.3, in addition to a host of podium finishes across both distances.
He finished 17th in his first race as a professional at 70.3 Boulder in 2016, and achieved a 70.3 podium at Calgary later that year. His first full-distance race since turning pro ended in 15th place at Arizona in November 2016.
Sam broke into the top 10 of a full IRONMAN event in his hometown of Boulder in June 2017 as he picked up seventh, and he repeated the feat at Wisconsin three months later with eighth.
Further top-10 finishes in both full full-distance and 70.3 races littered the beginning of his 2018, before he notched his maiden full IRONMAN podium with second at Louisville. Long was making consistent progress.
2019 proved to be a prosperous year for Sam – after a fifth at 70.3 St. George he then registered his first 70.3 victory at Chattanooga in May. Less than a fortnight later he would grab another, this time at Victoria.
In August of 2019 he made his debut at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice, finishing 35th. The end of that month saw him bag a first full IRONMAN win as he clocked 8:22:20 at Chattanooga. He had now moved from being merely a contender to a race winner.
2020 was massively disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t stop Sam setting course records in triumphs at the PTO-supported Bear Lake Half and IRONMAN Cozumel 70.3. He also became the youngest American to breach the eight-hour barrier at a full IRONMAN as he registered 7:55:33 in a third-place finish at Florida.
Long’s performances earned him a place in the PTO 2020 Championship at Challenge Daytona, where he took on an all-star field to finish ninth.
Long managed the seventh fastest time overall at the Collins Cup despite finishing third in his match-up, and soon after truly broke through on the world stage with an impressive second place behind Gustav Iden at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in St George.
2022 was a roller coaster year for long, with wins at Clash Miami, Challenge Puerto Varas and IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells overshadowed by tough days out at the delayed 2021 IRONMAN World Championships race in St George, a rough ride at IRONMAN Arizona and Challenge Roth and then that penalty drama at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.
In 2023, Long split from long time coach Ryan Bolton and opted to join forces with Dr Dan Plews, coach of 2022 IRONMAN World Championships winner and fellow American Chelsea Sodaro.
Sam Long and family
Sam is the oldest of a triplet of boys – Justin is a musician based in Denver while Brian is a financial analyst on Wall Street in New York City. He also has an older sister, Dana.
His father Eric has always been an avid cyclist but Sam’s exploits have seen him coaxed into competing in several triathlon events – in July 2021 he triumphed in the 60-64 age group at the XTERRA Beaver Creek race.
Sam’s mother Betty, a therapist, helped him tackle the mental aspect of professional sport by suggesting daily deep-breathing sessions and meditation.
Sam Long gear
Sam’s swim is sponsored by Aquasphere, providing him with the top-of-the-range MP Xceed goggles.
At the start of 2022, Trek became his new bike sponsor, meaning his race-day bike is the new Speed Concept. DT Swiss provide the aero wheels (the ARC disc to be more precise) and ICE Friction supplies his chain while his helmet and sunglasses are backed by Rudy Project.
For the run he’s aligned with ASICS and calls the Metaspeed Sky “the best race shoe I have ever used”.
ZOOT is his apparel of choice – “fun, fast, community-oriented, we share the same values.”
Long uses a range of GPS technology and bike computers from Wahoo.