Tom Bishop on what life’s like as a pro triathlete in 2022

Britain's Tom Bishop shares his thoughts on what it's like to be a pro triathlete in 2022 and discusses the opportunities opening up in this new era

Tom Bishop competing at PTO US Open

Being an elite in triathlon has given me so many opportunities. In just the last seven days I’ve travelled from Dallas, where I was racing in the PTO US Open, to St Moritz, Switzerland, for an altitude training camp in one of the most beautiful places in the world.


A long-haul flight and a nine-hour drive gave me plenty of opportunities for reflection, so here’s what I came to realise.

Choosing the right path

My initial thoughts zoomed in on my ongoing transition from the Olympic pathway to long-course racing, supported by the PTO.

It was a decision I came to this summer having hit a rut in my short course career. Things hadn’t clicked and I basically asked myself, ‘am I being fair to myself and others now?’

Having raced two half-distance triathlons, the experience and reaction I felt from those was completely different. I was excited again, no longer stressed and anxious. It was a healthy move as well as one that made more sense if I was to try and save my sporting career.

The Olympic pathway isn’t over. I’m treating this period as some time off to decompress. I’m excited for a winter ahead and to see how different training methods will improve me as an athlete, for long course, certainly, but also if I feel confident and happy about short course racing, then it isn’t a closed door.

One of the PTO’s goals is to try and make triathlon a professional sport by adding big money races to the calendar, as well as offering a bonus pool at the end of the year.

They also understand that, as athletes, we need to promote our sponsors, so compile a huge amount of content for us to use on social media and other forms of media. They have a great model to help athletes make a living, and a good one at that!

A golden era?

Credit: PTO

We’re about to enter a period where our small sport will reach the unexpected. You’ve probably all experienced that tiresome moment when you have to explain the sport to someone. “Is it cycling and running? When do you swim? Do you have a rest in between? Don’t you get tired?” Yes, we do, and that’s why triathlon is so great.

Now, the sport is at a point where these exchanges will be animated and fascinating. Our sport has history and tradition. That will never change thanks to the outstanding achievements of individuals like Mark Allen, Dave Scott, Simon Whitfield, Chris McCormack, Chrissie Wellington, Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee, Daniela Ryf, Nicola Spirig, to name just a few. And you can add yourself to the list, too.

The future is close and we now have the opportunity to take our sport into the mainstream. That is the goal of the PTO, Super League Triathlon and World Triathlon.

These organisations have their own ideas and plans about how to achieve it, and each have their own unique selling point, but they all have one goal: to showcase our sport to the world and inspire people to participate and change their lives. Triathlon won’t need an explanation, it’ll have its own dialogue.

In the past month alone we’ve seen some incredible events broadcast globally. The European Games in Munich was aired on various national TV stations. Super League has toured around the globe and the PTO has created a series of races based on the successful model of tennis and golf.

Something for everyone

This evolving field of events offer an array of dynamic racing that appeals to every type of fan and the organisations know their audience. Super League is fast and furious. It leaves you guessing and the course design can flip a race on its head.

World Triathlon hosts the very best of short course racing and is the pathway to Olympic glory. While the PTO provides individuals with an opportunity to show the world how strong and resilient they are, not only physically but mentally, too. Is there anything we’re missing right now?

Not only are we treated to incredible performances on an almost weekly basis, but our sport is giving businesses opportunity to expand and invest, to make our sport even more exhilarating.

Speed is a market. Everyone wants to go quicker, and pros and amateurs alike have access to the very latest technology and research. Our community shares its breakthroughs and its why our sport is at the foremost of innovation.

There is access to ground-breaking developments in the water, on two wheels and by foot, as well as medical and nutritional research that not only helps you go faster, but also promotes health and wellbeing.

Evolving opportunities

Credit: PTO

One of the best things to come out of the revolution in our sport is the interchange between the three organisations. There might be political battles, but all are aware of beneficial interchange between one another.

World Triathlon holds the aspiring triathletes dream of Olympic stardom, but Super League is an event that can rocket an athlete to the top. Look at Hayden Wilde’s trajectory over the past five years.

The PTO has matched that and gone further than both by realising the professional triathlete is something that’s achievable to any who wants it. It would be wrong to discount the Olympic pathway as a career, yet it is only available to a very small percentage of elite athletes.

We have a generation of the world’s best triathletes who will struggle to achieve success in short-course racing but have an opportunity to become great in other ways.

The PTO takes away pressures of federation politics and gives equal opportunity to any who wish to succeed.

They understand the pressures and huge demands our sport puts on athletes to race successfully. Shying away from the financial aspect of sport would be wrong and likewise, professional athletes want to be, just that, professional.

Money talks

Prize purses are a huge part of professional triathlon and the PTO has taken this to the next level. At PTO Tour events in the US and Canada, prize money comes in at $100,000 for first, $70,000 for second and $50,000 for third, while there’s a slightly different split for the Collins Cup. They’ve also provided a platform for the promotion of individual sponsorship and brand.

It means we’re seeing the emergence of individuals no longer shrouded by the national federation. Representing one’s country is one of the proudest moments of a career, but it has a time span and there becomes a point when it no longer becomes feasible.

The sport moves on and your profile no longer fits the competitive requirement. That’s where the PTO steps in. The races they host and support allow for the transition into the next stage of a pro triathlete’s career.

Yes, success is the cornerstone of elite sport and every athlete has that definition in their mind. But there are other ways to forge a career. This is evident in the emergence of video channels, social communities, merchandise and coaching.

Our sport is still young and is about to go through a monumental change that’ll provide an abundance of opportunities for anyone who has the drive and passion for our sport.


Top image credit: PTO