Lionel Sanders has done more than most to raise triathlon’s profile in recent years and he’s set out how he thinks his fellow pros can help amplify the sport by making themselves heard.
‘No Limits’ has over 160,000 subscribers on YouTube and proved a big draw when dropping right down in distance earlier this season in the short-format Arena Games.
Speaking on the latest Super League ‘Face To Face’ podcast he cited the Tour de France – which has gripped a global audience over the last couple of weeks with that absorbing Jonas Vingegaard vs Tadej Pogacar battle – as an example of what’s possible.
“If cycling is on the TV for 21 straight days in six-hour stages, without doubt we can also be a bona fide professional sport. But it’s certainly going to take a lot of work over the next few years,” he reckons.
Sanders says athletes must have personality
The Canadian believes part of that process is cultivating and building personalities, saying: “Some of the young guys now are seeing that to grow the sport, you’ve got to say something. You’ve got to have a personality.
“You just amplify your personality, you don’t have to be an asshole. But if you’re a little bit of an asshole you can amplify it a little bit and be the polarising guy. There’s dudes who are doing that now, and they’re starting to see that, and it’s fun.
I don’t think behind the scenes as a bunch of pros we should take it personally, it’s part of the game. It’s part of if we want to grow the sport, we make it entertaining.
“I think if we continue to do that, and guys continue to express themselves and continue to have fun and be good personalities, most definitely we have a very interesting sport. We can grow this and the general population would find it interesting.”
Extreme – and entertaining
Sanders passionately believes there are many different aspects that can help triathlon stand out, adding: “You’ve got IRONMAN, and that’s where I came up. I came up as an Age-Group triathlete, and then I watched a Pro lap me at IRONMAN Louisville and I was like ‘wow, that’s an amazing performance’ and that’s what kind of inspired me.
“So there’s always going to be that side of our sport. It’s an extreme sport, a lot of people do it to try and finish an IRONMAN, or a 70.3. We can never forget about that part of our sport – that’s how we all begin, trying to accomplish something that we don’t know if it’s possible to accomplish.
“And then there’s our entertainment side and that’s where we’re headed now. Is there a bona fide sport here? Is there an entertainment value in this sport that will grow to a larger audience and grow our entire sport and still have that other component here? I think so.
“Are we trying to make a bona fide professional sport like MMA for instance? You listen to the press conferences and stuff and some of them you’re like: ‘I’m not that interested in this fight, there’s no personalities, there’s no rivalry, there’s no nothing. I’ve always thought if you don’t say something then there’s no interest. So you’ve got to say something otherwise no-one cares.”