Sam Long: Background, career highlights, quotes

Sam Long didn't take a conventional route into triathlon, but he's been making waves ever since. Here's his story so far

Triathlete Sam Long running during Ironman Louiseville

Over the past few years Sam Long has gradually been making more and more of a name for himself, with a number of performances catapulting him into the limelight.

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Here, we take a look at his story so far…

Who is Sam Long?

Affectionately known as the ‘Big Unit’ due to his 6ft 4in stature, Sam Long’s entry into triathlon was far from a conventional one. Being based in Boulder, Colorado, he grew up playing a huge range of sports including mountain biking, cross country running, American football and alpine skiing.

But at the age of 18 he tore his MCL in a skiing accident. On the road to recovery some of the first bits of exercise he could do came in the form of a stationary bike and swimming with a pull buoy.

Running soon followed and with the first-ever Ironman Boulder set to take place that year (2014), he thought it sounded like a perfect rite of passage for graduating high school.

He did well, finishing first in his age-group, and the rest, as they say, was history, with his focus quickly turning to triathlon.

Sam Long runs along Lake Coeur d’Alene to a first place finish at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2021 (Credit: Harry How/Getty Images for Ironman)

Over the next few years Long took to a variety of different start lines, including running races, mountain bike events, time trials and Xterra. Among then was a sixth-place finish in his age group at the Ironman World Champs in 2015.

His first pro win came at the 70.3 in Chattanooga in 2019, which he followed up with wins at Ironman 70.3 Victoria and Ironman Chattanooga.

Since then there have been a couple of (pandemic-affected) seasons where Long’s secured numerous podiums and a handful of wins.

By his own admission, one of his best performances was the silver he secured at the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St George. On that day, he finished second only to Norwegian juggernaut Gustav Iden.

While 2022 has been a mixed bag, with several wins and a few disappointments, there’s a feeling we haven’t seen the best of the Big Unit just yet…

How old is Sam Long?

Sam Long was born on 23 December 1995, making him 26 years old.

Sam Long’s career highlights

Sam Long competes at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2021 (Credit: Harry How/Getty Images for Ironman)

August 2014: Long makes his Ironman debut

After a summer of various single-discipline events and a few triathlons (Olympic and middle-distance), Long lines up for his maiden full distance at the inaugural Ironman Boulder. He finishes first in his age group and 12th among the pros.

May 2019: First pro win at 70.3 distance

Long takes the win at Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga in a time of 3:48:52, securing his first pro win and beating the likes of Jackson Laundry (CAN) and Matt Hanson (USA).

He’ll follow that up with another win at Ironman 70.3 Victoria just a couple of weeks later.

September 2019: Déjà vu at Chattanooga

Returning to a course that served him well a few months before, Sam Long takes his first pro long-distance win at Ironman Chattanooga with a time of 8:22:21.

September 2021: Secures silver at the 70.3 world champs

Sam Long shakes hands with Gustav Iden after finishing second to the Norwegian at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship (Credit: Donald Miralle for Ironman)

Long follows up a win at Ironman 70.3 Boulder and Ironman Coeur d’Alene with a silver at the Ironman 70.3 World Champs, finishing behind Norwegian Gustav Iden.

March 2022: Starts the year with a bang

Wins at Clash Miami and Challenge Puerto Varas gets Long’s year off to a great start, but things don’t continue to go to plan as he’s knocked off his bike by a car in the lead-up to the Ironman World Championship in St George in May.

He battles through to start and finish the race but can only manage 15th, with the unfortunate event taking its toll.

August 2022: Shows form at the Collins Cup

Finishes second by 2secs behind Lionel Sanders in his match-up, but still clocks the fourth fastest time of the day with a 3:12:26.

September 2022: Podiums in Dallas

Runs in second place until almost the line at the PTO US Open, until Magnus Ditlev snatches the spot and with it takes $20k off Long’s winnings (he still went home with $50k).

Sam Long in quotes

On making his move to triathlon: “I tore my MCL skiing in my senior year of high school and decided to do an Ironman as my rehab. The rest is history.”

On getting hit by a car in the build up to the 2021 Ironman World Championship in May: “It’s been a blur after getting pummelled by a car last week. After feeling and seeing peak fitness in my metrics—after months of work, cancelling Christmas and so much focus—I nearly lost it all.”

On his love for triathlon: “I love the sport. I love to be outside, see new areas, explore new places and do it in different ways. Sometimes the monotony of one sport can get kind of boring, but with triathlon you can explore the trails or you can go on your bike.

“[With] swimming I guess you could say you’re staring at a black line, but I’ve learned to have quite a passion for finding cool pools in all parts of the world.”

What’s next for Sam Long?

Sam Long approaches the finish line at the Collins Cup in 2021, finishing third in his match. behind Jan Frodeno and Sam Appleton (Credit: James Mitchell/PTO)

The Collins Cup is the immediate task, with the American hoping to improve on his performance there in 2021.

Beyond that, the PTO Dallas Open and the Ironman 70.3 World Championship are the big aims, though Long has admitted he’s still tempted by the prospect of racing in Kona as well, which he already has a spot for.

He’s also hoping to compete in one or two Ironman events and plans to continue racing right through until December.

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Top image credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images