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‘Planet Mars’: Sam Long on how Euro Tour has broadened his horizons

An imaginative schedule has helped Sam Long develop both on and off the race course this year

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Redefining triathlon

‘Smack talk’. A phrase we have come to associate with the 26-year-old American professional triathlete Sam Long.

Indeed, you may recall him smack talking with Lionel Sanders and Jan Frodeno not that long ago. Although he states that it came from “a place of respect for Lionel and Jan”, he realises it may sometimes have gone too far and he has since tried to change his image.

At the Collins Cup in Šamorin last month however, a pointed remark from Sam Laidlow, one of Long’s opponents, brought back this past and Long “reached a breaking point”. Laidlow apologised, but Long was not willing to accept the apology and said they would settle it on course, and (possibly) be friends later.

With more at stake than prize money or team points, the match between Long, Laidlow and Sanders was going to be intense, and it delivered.

Come race day, Laidlow led out of the swim by a large margin but Long and Sanders passed him with apparent ease on the bike. After the fastest bike split of the day, Long started the run with Sanders and they were locked together from then on. It ultimately ended in a sprint finish – which, frankly, we all wanted to see – and Sanders took the tape.

Laidlow finished nearly half an hour later after suffering with gut issues, and humbly accepted his defeat. “Action will always speak louder than words,” Long wrote on social media after the race.

Sam’s ‘Euro Tour’

And talking to TRI247, he also said: “I made a mistake last year. Now I have fun and talk some banter but I also know I need to race very, very hard.” (For those wondering, it seems like Long and Laidlow are now friends. But we can probably expect a fierce rivalry out on the race course).

Collins Cup 2022 Lionel Sanders Sam Long photo credit PTO
[Photo credit: PTO]

They say with age comes wisdom. I guess that’s true for most people and Long has a noticeably different attitude today compared to two years ago. But how about exposing oneself to unfamiliar situations and stepping out of one’s comfort zone? These teach us important values and skills, including self-awareness, open-mindedness and respect for others.

Earlier this year, Long embarked on a “Euro Tour”, including five races in five countries.

And he admitted it was pretty daunting at first: “Europe felt like the planet Mars to me; I was scared of the highways, I didn’t know the cultures, I thought the language barrier would be a problem, wasn’t sure what food to expect, was shocked by the narrow roads of cycling, and equally confused by cities that don’t follow the grid system!”

Yet his journey has clearly enabled him to learn and develop significantly. “As a person, it’s been amazing to be in Europe to see all the different places. As an athlete, it’s been interesting from a logistical standpoint, setting up races, and I got to know the European contingent,” he told us.

Long then headed back to the USA where he’ll race at the PTO US Open in Dallas this weekend.

His major focus for the remainder of the season is the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George at the end of October. When asked about the IRONMAN World Championships, which will return to Hawaii on 8 October after a two-year absence due to the pandemic, he answered: “I will likely stick with my decision not to race it but I want to be there.

“I just wish it was three weeks after St George rather than three weeks before.” It is often hard to find the balance between wanting to conform to external expectations and doing what you think is best for you, but Long seems to have matured (and since we spoke, has confirmed that he will indeed not race in Hawaii this year).

Looking ahead to next year, Long’s aims are the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships and the PTO Collins Cup, both held in Europe. Will we see Long do a ‘Euro Tour 2.0’? We’d certainly be happy to welcome him back to our planet Mars.

Louisa Middleditch
Written by
Louisa Middleditch
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