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Lionel Sanders: “This is going to be the greatest season of all time”

Two of Canada's top long-distance athletes look forward to the PTO Canadian Open

Photo by: Professional Triathletes Organisation

Canada’s Lionel Sanders isn’t even remotely worried about trying to be at his best for five major races in 2022. With two Ironman World Championships slated for this year (May in St. George, Utah and October at the usual venue in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii) and the recently announced Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) Tour with two “Opens” in Canada and the US, along with the Collins Cup, Sanders has a jam-packed schedule of races against the world’s best long-distance triathletes.

“What’s five major events in a season?” Sanders asked during a press conference for the PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton today. “That sounds like a great year to me. This is going to be the greatest season of all time.”

Sanders and Findlay set to compete at the PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton

Another Canadian involved in today’s press conference, Edmonton’s own Paula Findlay, is also looking forward to returning to her hometown for a long-distance event. Acknowledging that for many of her appearances at the World Triathlon events in Edmonton she was injured, Findlay said that she is looking forward to the event in Edmonton and a chance to shine at home.

Paula Findlay at the Challenge Daytona press conference 2019. Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade.

“I’m approaching the season to be fully fit in the summer,” she said. “I’ve shown that if I’m fit I can be competitive – I proved that to myself in Daytona (at the PTO 2020 Championship). This event is really exciting to me – on the World Triathlon circuit the races are much more unpredictable. The PTO distance suits me well – things are much more in your control.”

Both Sanders and Findlay feel that the PTO is elevating the profile of long-distance triathlon racing.

“World Triathlon puts on a big show,” Findlay said. “It’s all very big. That’s lacking at Ironman races and 70.3 events I’ve done over the last few years. The PTO races offer similar or even surpass the level of coverage we see at the World Triathlon events.”

“This is going to be my big season goal,” Sanders said.

In addition to the incentive to do well at a Canadian event, Sanders said that the PTO Tour will enable athletes to really make a living through the sport and will encourage the world’s best long-distance athletes to go head to head on a regular basis.

$5.5 million PTO Tour kicks off with Canadian Open in Edmonton

“Money brings people to the table,” Sanders said. “That’s part of what’s been the issue [in the sport]. We’ve been fighting for scraps.”

Lionel Sanders at the Challenge Daytona press conference in 2019. Photo: Jose Luis Hourcade.

Sanders used Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston as an example. While he won the race and took the $4,000 check for the win, his expenses getting himself, his wife Erin and videographer, Talbot Cox, to the race cost $3,000.

“I would have netted $1,000,” he said. “Actually, if you include food, I might have lost money on the race. That’s why it’s not a sustainable venture to have the best people racing head-to-head under the old model. The beauty here [with the PTO Canadian Open] is there finally is enough that we can all come to this race. We can make a buck and race the best guys in the world.”

Sanders feels that events like the one in Galveston can serve as “feeder” events to the larger, big money races like the PTO Canadian Open.

“This is truly a golden era – we’ve got the right people, the right investors involved,” he said. “This is the beginning of what can become a bona fide professional circuit.”