The Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) has long tried to push an almost “combative” atmosphere around its events and athletes, but that approach might have backfired a bit at this year’s Collins Cup. Things started to go awry at last night’s opening ceremony when France’s Sam Laidlow went through some of the lyrics from a rap song he wrote that made fun of Team USA’s Sam Long.
Long was visibly upset after the opening ceremony, and since then a video distributed by the PTO has only added fuel to the fire – in the video Long is seen storming out of an interview with Laidlow and the other athlete in their match, Canada’s Lionel Sanders.
At today’s press conference Long asked to make a statement before he was asked any questions.
“I feel like I put myself in this position two years ago when I started to smack talk with Lionel and Jan,” he said. “I made myself the bad boy, or the devil, of the sport. But that came out of a place of respect for Lionel and Jan.”
Long is now trying to move past that time, though – “I was 23, you don’t always realize your decisions,” he continued. “I’ve worked hard to change that role. The incidents of yesterday brought it all back. I’ve reached my breaking point. I feel like I’ve been being attacked for months on end, and I’ve tried to ignore it as I move on to a new role. I want to say sorry in case I have offended anyone in the sport.”
Then in a pointed remark to Laidlow, Long continued: “I feel the biggest issue at stake, and I can honestly say of every athlete here, I feel there’s a lot of mutual respect except for the individual sitting to my right. And I have to stand up for myself as a person and as a human being and as an athlete.”
Laidlow was given the opportunity to respond to Long’s words. He did express that he’d hoped to have a private conversation with the American. “My goal was not for it to go this far,” Laidlow said. “I have a lot of respect for everyone here. I’m the athlete who has proved the least here. I’ve got nothing to lose.”
When asked what he thought about it all, Sanders simply said: “I’m just watching the show.”
Long wasn’t willing to accept an apology on the stage today. He ended things by saying that he and his European rival were like “junkyard dogs” and would have to race tomorrow and then become friends later.