Sam Laidlow, inscribed his name in the legend of Ironman last week (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, 42 km run). At 23, he was crowned vice-world triathlon champion in the legendary Kona race (Hawaii). His time is dizzying: 7 h 42’24”. The podium is held in a pocket handkerchief, the Catalan is inserted between the Norwegians Gustav Iden (7h 40’24”) and Kristian Blummenfelt (7h43’23”). Leading the race until the last seven kilometers he smashed the bike record (4h 04′). Barely returned to his land in Vallespir, he humbly recounts the race of his dreams that have become records.
For your first participation, you won second place in the mythical Ironman in Hawaii, is this a dream come true?
As a child I stayed awake to watch this mythical competition. To participate was to fulfill my childhood dream. This season was complicated, I was injured in the foot, I gave up on three Ironman, then obtained the qualifying ticket for Kona thanks to my 8th place in Saint George (United States). In Hawaii, I was aiming for the Top 5 and the Norwegians were favorites. Iden is a two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion (Half Ironman). Blummenfelt is a gold medalist at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo and short distance triathlon world champion. To become vice-world champion, to achieve the best French performance, it’s magic.
In the lead after the 3.8 km swim (40’34”), you broke the bike record by five minutes at almost 45 km/h on average…
The swimming was complicated, there was an incoming tide, it was difficult to widen the gap. I was first, but there were about twenty of us out of the water. Putting Blummenfelt and Iden at bay was not possible. The bike is my favorite event, on the U-turn, I felt that I had the legs to spin.
You end up with a very nice marathon (2 h 44′). Did you feel like you could win the title?
I was fresh, it allowed me to pass the three events in one competition. I did it there, on the race that matters most to me. I knew that in 3 hours of marathon, I passed under 8 hours. When I arrived at the semi, the possibility of victory touched me. For a moment it pierced me, immediately I remobilized. In Ironman being ahead doesn’t mean much. Everything can collapse on the last three kilometers.
Gustav Iden passes you (with a friendly pat) 7 km from the finish. In the end, two minutes separate you, is it frustrating?
No it’s not frustrating. Iden was stronger than me that day, you have to accept that. Two minutes seems ridiculous, my mind wanted to follow, but my body refused. I suffered and gave my best to secure the silver medal.
How did you build your career in the Catalan cradle?
My parents, Richard and Michelle (organizers of the Bearman) are British triathletes, in love with Vallespir, they found there a favorable ground for their sport. At 14, I practiced bike rides over 200 km. Then, I went through local clubs: Aquasport de Saint-Cyprien, then the Catalan Triathlon. When I was 16, I joined the sport studies section of Font-Romeu, then the hope center, but I always had in mind to do long distance. At 18, I returned to Vallespir, I joined the structure (Sancture Sportif) coached by my father. For swimming, I train at the Moulin à Vent swimming pool, which I would like to thank. When I was 20, I took part in my first Ironman in Barcelona (8:50 am), my only goal was Kona.
Your exceptional performance was honored on Saturday October 15 with a party among friends in front of the Palalda church. Conviviality, simplicity, commitment: is that the key to your success?
I ran drawing on my emotions, carried by those who support me like my brother Jake for whom “everything is doable”! My parents sacrificed many things to support my project. My friends are everywhere. This victory is a bit theirs.
Two Swallows are drawn on your jersey and tattooed on each hand, do they have a particular meaning?
English sailors made a tattoo when they left their homes, another when they came back. These swallows symbolize the departure of my family at 13 and my return at 18. In Hawaii, I had a butterfly tattooed, a species that only exists on this island: the Kamehameha. It is also the name of the first king of Hawaii. I hope it will be a happy omen to win the next edition of Kona.
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Ironman: for Sam Laidlow money brings happiness
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