Spencer Smith: triathlon today is too divided

We chat to the three-time ITU world champ about triathlon's growing recognition, the Olympics and his all-time hero, Mark Allen


(Image: Nigel Farrow)


As part of our Tri Legends series, in which we speak to some of the stars of 220‘s lifetime, we speak to British athlete Spencer Smith about triathlon’s journey, the divisions in the sport and the tough job of selling himself in the early days…

220: What for you have been major changes in the sport since 1989?

Smith: The growth of the sport and being recognised and accepted into the Olympics. Rarely now do people ask ‘what is a triathlon?’. The average person on the street may not know all the distances and all the races, but the fact that they recognise the sport is a very big deal. The cost is a negative thing. Triathlon has become very expensive and isn’t always readily available to all who want to compete in it.

What is your greatest achievement?

My world championship titles and the fact that I made my mum and dad so proud.

Who would be your hero of 220’s lifetime?

Mark Allen. He was my hero from the start and still is to this day. A true living legend that could win at any distance.

What relationship have you had with 220

You’ve played a huge part in my career. Without wanting to sound dated, in my early racing days the media coverage was very limited and to go out and acquire sponsors was challenging. The fact that I could show a potential sponsor a publication that was the quality of 220 from day one was massive. It made the already tough job of selling myself that bit easier.

What major change would you hope tri makes in its next 25 years?

I would actually love to see both long- and sprint-distance racing accepted into the Olympic programme. To me, they represent everything that the Games stand for. The sport today is far too divided and, with the inclusion of long-distance racing into the Games especially, I think the gap could close.


220 Triathlon is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, with our 300th issue going on sale on 27 May in newsagents and on iTunes/Google Play/Zinio