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British triathlon star India Lee reveals she almost QUIT the sport before receiving lifeline contract

In a frank conversation about financing a professional sporting career, the British star opened up about making ends meet in long distance triathlon.

Staff Reporter
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Thanks to some incredible race performances over the past 12 months, Britain’s India Lee has propelled herself into the upper echelons of long distance triathlon, with the 36-year-old one of a select few to have received a T100 Tour contract in 2024.

Her ‘sudden’ rise to the top, which has been more than a decade in the making, could not have come at a better time. In an exclusive interview with TRI247, Lee revealed the costs behind financing her dream and how backing herself is now finally paying off.

Drawing parallels with Pieter Heemeryck, who last year revealed that the payday at the 2022 PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton kept him in the sport, Lee shared that without the support of the PTO, she would have been faced with a very hard decision at the end of last year.

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“The T100 contract was a huge deal for me personally”

In 2023, Lee turned her middle distance potential into results, with a second place finish at IRONMAN 70.3 Lanzarote behind Anne Haug just the start of a whirlwind season that would culminate in a contract on the brand new T100 Tour.

India Lee wins the Challenge Championship in Samorin 2023 [Photo credit: Activimages / Challenge Family]
[Photo credit: Activimages / Challenge Family]

A win at The Championship last May, plus a second place finish at IRONMAN Florida, was enough to see her secure PTO World #15 at the end of the year. As a result, she was offered a lifeline that kept her from stepping away from professional triathlon.

“When I was offered a T100 contract, it was a pretty big deal for me. If I hadn’t got the contract, I probably would have had to quit the sport at the end of last year, just because it was getting ridiculous how much time and effort I was putting in.

“I was getting decent results, but because I wasn’t putting myself out there enough, I was really limited in terms of getting paying sponsors. Because of the circumstances I have been in my whole triathlon career, I have never had a big sponsor that has paid me a salary.”

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“It pays the bills and gets me through life basically”

Explaining what the money from the contract go towards, Lee points out that her expenses are similar to most people, with rent, food and other bills all things that need to be taken care of.

India Lee (GBR) crosses the finish line in first in Miami.
[Photo Credit – PTO]

“So the T100 contract pays my day-to-day salary, it pays rent, it pays the bills and gets me through life basically. I need to make money to live, it all just goes in the same pot to be honest.”

Additional costs include kit, travel and coaching fees, which all have to be accounted for and in the past have made finances get “pretty tight”, the Winchester native added.

“For me, its travel costs, training camps, coaching costs and because I don’t have sponsors who provide me with a lot of equipment, in the last few years I have spent a lot of money on things that lets me turn up to a start line feeling like I am on par with my competitors.

“For example, the bike that I am riding at the moment is one I paid for myself, this year I managed to get a wheel sponsor, but in previous years I have had to buy my wheels and everything else, like wetsuits, running shoes and other pieces of kit that are all a big outlay. To be honest, most of my money goes on making me a better triathlete and it can get pretty tight.”

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Balancing racing and social media

When we spoke to India, she had just clinched a second successive title at The Championship in Slovakia. Racing here, she explained, was partly to do with the €15,000 prize purse on offer for the winner.

India Lee (GBR) took the win at The Championship 2024.
[Photo Credit – Challenge Family]

“Coming to The Championship, a huge consideration is the fact that there is a big prize purse, because I need to make money to live. It all just goes in the same pot to be honest, I am not in a position to say that prize money can go away for a rainy day, I am trying to get financially stable and so coming to a race like this enables me to get to that goal sooner.” 

Undoubtedly a world class racer, Lee underlined that balancing the often unspoken part of professional triathlon, social media, has not been her strong suit and clashes with her personality.

“Putting myself out there on social media is just not my personality, so there would be people who I would be outperforming that were getting much better sponsorship deals, which was tricky for me and I couldn’t find it in myself to change that.

“It [social media] doesn’t come naturally to me, I don’t ever think I should grab my phone and document what I am doing today, because I just think why would anyone care. However, people do care, and I think I’ve just figured out a way of doing it in my own way that I’m comfortable with.”

Now on top of both racing and the arguably tougher task of promoting herself online, the future looks bright for the PTO World #10. Currently third in the T100 Tour standings, she has already demonstrated this season that she is making the most of the opportunities presented to her and will be one to watch in 2024.

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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