Sarah True: Background, career highlights, quotes

A fan, media and athlete favourite, America's Sarah True, née Groff, is also one of the sport's top performers. From World Triathlon wins to Ironman mastery, here's her stellar career to date…

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 1:  Sarah True of the USA smiles in transition before the start of the race during the Isuzu IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Women in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on September 1, 2018. Over 4,500 athletes from over 100 countries will be represented in this years 70.3 World Championship. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

American Sarah True, née Groff, has been competing as an elite triathlete since her early 20s, making a relatively slow but consistent ascent up the ITU rankings, before hitting the big leagues with a fourth-place finish at the 2012 London Olympics. 

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After a devastating DNF at the 2016 Games in Rio, True made the move to half- and full-Ironman racing in spring 2017, a move which has so far reaped big rewards. Let’s find out more about this popular US athlete…

Who is Sarah True?

Born in Hanover, New Hampshire, and raised in Cooperstown, New York, Sarah True (née Groff) competed in cross country, track and swimming in high school before making the swim team in college.

After graduating, and having competed in a few amateur triathlon races during her college years, she made a move into the sport full-time.

Racing in World Cups – the precursors to World Championship Series races – from 2005 to 2008, she slowly but surely started to move from a top-20 athlete, into the top 10, before climbing onto the podium in 2008.

From 2010, and with the Series now working to more of an F1-style format with increased global TV coverage, she joined Darren Smith’s all-star coaching outfit. Again, she bided her time but by 2011 she was regularly visiting the podium and finished third overall in the Series.

True finished a devastatingly-close fourth in London at the 2012 Olympic Games, on what would be her best day on the biggest short-course stage (she would DNF in Rio having been lapped). A couple of solid Series followed, before she took her first WTS win in Stockholm in 2014, and finished second overall in the Series – again, it would be her best result.

The Rio DNF became a turning point in True’s life. Suffering with deep depression, troubled sleep and suicidal thoughts, she eventually turned to therapy to help her through. She’s now a vocal supporter of mental health.

The move to middle and long-distance racing since 2017 has been transformative for True, not only professionally but also personally, finding a peace that somehow evaded her in Olympic-distance racing.

To date, and now under the supervision of superstar coach Dan Lorang, out of 12 70.3 starts she’s been on the podium nine times.

How old is Sarah True?

Sarah True (née Groff) was born on 27 November 1981, making her 40 years old.

Sarah True’s career highlights

Sarah Groff (her maiden name) winning her first-ever World Triathlon event, in Stockholm, Sweden, 2014. (Credit: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images for Threadneedle)

May 2007: First major win

True’s first major win comes at the 2007 Aquathlon World Championships.

October 2008: The first World Cup podium

A year later, True achieves her first World Cup podium with silver in Huatulco, Mexico, before finishing seventh at the then one-day ITU World Championship in Vancouver.

June 2011: The first World Championship Series podium

Paula Findlay (C) celebrates her win, flanked by Helen Jenkins (L) in second and Sarah Groff (R) in third, at the 2011 ITU World Championship Series Kitzbühel race. (Credit: Dieter Nagl/AFP via Getty Images)

A year out from the London Games and True was showing real podium form, taking bronze in Kitzbühel behind Helen Jenkins in second and Paula Findlay in first, to become the first US woman to finish on a WCS podium.

August 2011: Olympic bound

At the Olympic test event in August, True places seventh which secures her Olympic spot on the US team alongside second-place finisher Gwen Jorgensen. Three other top-10 finishes see her finish third overall in the World Championships Series.

August 2012: Best of the rest at the London Olympics 

Sarah Groff runs through for fourth at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. (Credit: Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

At the main event, True finishes in every athlete’s most feared position – fourth, 10secs off bronze. But it’s still the top-finishing position for any American athlete at an Olympic Games triathlon event (until 2016, see below).

August 2014: Wins her first World Triathlon series race 

After two top-10 Series finishes in 2012 and 2013, she scores her first World Series (now simply called World Triathlon) victory in Stockholm.

At the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Finale in Edmonton, Canada, she finishes fourth – again – to end the year runner-up behind Jorgensen.

September 2015: All-American podium 

L-R: Katie Zaferes, Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True, who finished second, first and third, respectively, in the 2015 World Triathlon Series. (Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Threadneedle)

A silver on the Gold Coast, a bronze in London and a repeat win in Sweden… and fourth place in the Rio Olympic test event. She ends the year in third place overall behind team-mates Jorgensen in first and Katie Zaferes in second.

August 2016: Career low point

A pretty dismal 2016 follows, the ultimate low point coming at the Rio Olympics where she suffers leg cramps on the bike, is then lapped and therefore forced to DNF. Jorgensen wins the title.

May 2017: Finds her calling on the 70.3 circuit

After a DNF and a 25th place at the first two ITU races of 2017, True calls it a day on her short-course career. But she wastes no time on moving up to middle distance, racing her first one in May and winning silver. Another silver, a bronze and a fourth (no, really) at her first 70.3 Worlds follows. By September, she takes her first win at 70.3 Augusta.

October 2018: A top-five debut in Hawaii 

L-R: Sarah True, who finished second, Daniela Ryf, first, and Sarah Crowley, third, celebrate on the podium at the 2018 Ironman European Championship. (Credit: Joern Pollex/Getty Images for Ironman)

At her first full Ironman, in Germany in July, she finishes runner-up behind Daniela Ryf. A 10th at the 70.3 Worlds follows, before she lines up at her first Ironman World Champs and finishes… yep, fourth, with a time of 8:43:43.

June 2019: Collapses in 100°F heat in Germany 

With a 7min lead over the field, True succumbed to extreme temperatures just 1km from the finish line at Ironman Germany.

A similar thing happens at the Ironman World Champs in October, this time DNFing on the bike.

July 2022: Wins her first full Ironman

Sarah True wins her first full Ironman at Lake Placid, New York, on 24 July, 2022. (Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images for Ironman)

After two years off racing – one for Covid and one to have a baby with husband Ben True – she has a golden start to 2022, with a win at 70.3 Eagleman in June before finally taking her first full Ironman win, and the course record, at Lake Placid.

Sarah True in quotes

On finishing fourth in the 2012 London Olympic Games triathlon: “I got pretty severely depressed for a while. I went through the motions, did a couple more races. It’s both the best achievement of my life and also one of those moments where you can’t help but wonder what could have been if you’d approached things differently, and I think it has the potential to make me a better athlete.”

On DNFing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games triathlon: “You go through every possible way a race is going to unfold and it never occurred to me something like that could happen. I wasn’t prepared for that. After years of my fight being knocked out of me, that was it. I no longer had the ability to reconcile with something that was a bummer, but it shouldn’t have been that devastating.”

On advocating for mental health in sport: “My mission is to be more transparent about the other side of sport. Our struggles are all universal. I would’ve been so grateful to have that voice when I was a younger athlete.”

On racing Ironman: “My motivation behind racing an Ironman: 60% personal & professional fulfilment; 38% love of triathlon; 2% so I don’t have to hear strangers on a plane smugly tell me about their friend/co-worker/dog walker who did an IM & maybe I can too someday.”

On finishing fourth at the 2018 Ironman World Championship: “Once I physically recovered from the race in Kona, my brain wasn’t totally shot, I just felt content with the race. I could see it as a learning experience, whereas after the London Games, I felt like I really let myself down and it was a very bittersweet experience. The contrast of the two races—the before and after, how I processed everything—is really indicative of how far I’ve come in my career.”

On DNFing while leading Ironman Germany 2018: “Sad, frustrated, a million different things. You never expect to be in the position where you have a seven-minute gap, and your brain doesn’t function well enough to tell you you’re struggling in the heat. Just stop and walk a little because I still would have won. When your brain goes in the heat, there’s not a lot you can do.”

What’s next for Sarah True?

With a full-Ironman now under her tri-suit, True will be eager to keep the victories coming. Next up there’s the Collins Cup, where she’s racing for Team USA as one of the Captain’s Picks.

Beyond that, another crack at the two major championships – 70.3 and Ironman – are surely in her crosshairs.

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Top image: Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Ironman