American Sam Long slammed triathlon nemesis Sam Laidlow for being disrespectful and said he was “p****d off” after Team Europe’s young upstart continued their war of words at the Collins Cup, writes Josh Graham in Slovakia.
Long, Laidlow and Canadian legend Lionel Sanders of Team International will face off in Match 8 of triathlon’s version of golf’s Ryder Cup on Saturday in Slovakia, with the Team US star visibly unimpressed with the draw at Thursday’s opening ceremony.
Bedfordshire-born French triathlete Laidlow, 23, has been turning up the heat on social media since his impressive fourth-place finish at the PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton last month earned him a captain’s pick and previously rapped on a diss track where both this week’s opponents were namechecked.
Laidlow’s wind-up tactics seemed to work a treat in pre-race broadcast media as Colorado’s Long, 26, and Sanders both admitted to being annoyed with the American storming out and slamming the door so hard it took a sizeable chunk out of the wall, with the clip now doing the rounds on social media.
Laidlow, a particularly strong swimmer, had teasingly labelled his competitors as duathletes on stage at the ceremony and later said: “I think we could skip the swim and I’d still give them a run for their money. I’m pretty confident about that if you look at the times from previous races like Edmonton.
“This time I genuinely feel prepared for the race, I feel ready and hope to have a lonely day right until the end.
“I’ve won no 70.3s [half-ironmans] and no Ironmans. I’ve won nothing compared to these two guys and I’m still going to beat them. A nobody is going to beat them, that’s what is difficult [for them to take].”
Laidlow then turned his attention to Long and added: “I think you take it too seriously. I have a lot of respect for athletes and I just think you take the sport a bit too seriously.”
The PTO’s world No.10 replied: “You’ve won zero 70.3s. There’s a degree of respect that should come with the sport.
“Perhaps you should show that respect to other athletes. Most people say I’m a lot of fun and I get along with most people. You are the first person who has ever said that to me.
“I’m genuinely p****d off and I’m not normally in the sport of triathlon. I’m pretty sure this guy is going to be getting cramps and making excuses out there afterwards.”
This weekend’s battle of the Sams will only be the second time the two have raced together after May’s Ironman World Championship in St George, Utah.
On that occasion, Laidlow placed eighth while Long came 15th having been knocked off his bike by a car in training just over a week before the race.
Laidlow suggested St George proved he could beat Long without the swim advantage, which lit a flame inside his opponent who snapped back: “This guy just said he could beat us if there wasn’t a swim and that is absolutely the farthest thing from the truth.
“I was hit by a car nine days before [St George]. Maybe you’ll make fun of me for getting hit by a car too? That would be very much in your character.”
While Sanders took Laidlow’s jibes in his stride, he confessed the Frenchman is likely to regret poking the bear with the duo, who are both big YouTubers, thought to race even better when fired up, a feeling confirmed by many of their fellow athletes on the ground at the X-Bionic Sphere.
Four-time Ironman champion Sanders, 34, said: “He takes digs at us, everything out of this guy’s mouth is a dig.
“Everything I say is not fabricated, he p****d me off a little bit. I don’t know what he said on that rap tape but I’m sure it wasn’t good.
"He poked the wrong person, unfortunately for him.
“I raced like a piece of s*** in Edmonton, so I plan to redeem myself on that.”
At Friday’s press conference, Long - who said he has come to realise he was wrong to smack talk legends like Sanders and Jan Frodeno in years gone by – apologised if his reaction had offended anybody.
Sitting next to Laidlow, an emotional Long explained: “I made myself the bad boy or the devil of the sport and put myself into a position to get a lot of hate and I feel like that came out of a place of respect and to build the sport.
“As a young man, you don’t always realise your decisions and in a way, I regret them. I’ve worked hard to change my role and grown as a man, trying to build respect. Yesterday brought that back up, I feel I’ve been attacked for the last three months.
“I tried to ignore it as I’m trying to create a new reputation for myself, there’s a video circulating now and yes I reached my breaking point.
"My new motto is building each other up, making the sport bigger and stronger and I think banter can exist within that. There is a lot of mutual respect from every athlete here except from the individual to my right. There have been some serious things said, I hope they are backed up and tomorrow is about earning my respect.”
In reply, Laidlow insisted he had respect for everyone as the least proven athlete selected and admitted he had not wanted things to progress this far.
He said: “Maybe I picked the wrong person and we didn’t know each other well enough. I wanted to chat privately but we haven’t had the chance, so I’m sorry for that and hope we can have a real race.”
The Collins Cup takes place on Saturday 20 August at the X-Bionic Sphere, Bratislava. For full listings of how to watch go to https://protriathletes.org/events/how-to-watch