The toughest opponent for many star athletes is the person they look at in the mirror each morning. That is certainly the case for Sam Long.
The 6ft 4ins ‘Big Unit’ will turn 25 years old on December 23, knowing “the monster” inside him is what will drive him forward in the desire for greatness in 2021 and beyond.
Appearing in the PTO’s Unbreakable documentary series, the American revealed: “The problem is, losing hurts so much and losing haunts me for so long that I have to chase being number one.
“It has gotten to a point where it is almost this obsession, I don’t even have to think about reasons. It has just become this like monster inside of me.”
‘Big Unit’ searching for his limits
Elite triathlon competition drives the sport’s superstars to insane levels of endurance and athletic brilliance. It drives them to dig deeper than ever before. Long is still trying to find his limits, and this is what excites him most.
“It’s an unknown road ahead, and the limits are really endless, and that’s what is most exciting. Makes me want to go faster than anybody has gone before.
“The biggest thing between triathletes and other athletes is that we’ve got three sports to do, so we are doing a three-a-day, 340 days of the year. That’s just a fact and I think we are just a little bit ‘psycho’.
“That’s kind of why I became a triathlete, I was like ‘this is the coolest thing of all-time’, but I also realise that it is a little bit ‘psycho’ and I think we are all kind of like that.”
Sam’s competitive nature is matched in full by his confidence. Something he says which can lead to others getting the wrong idea about him.
“I think my confidence has been perceived as cockiness and brashness, and trying to rub people up the wrong way. And that I don’t really respect the rules of the sport – and some of the rules of the sport are ridiculous.
“But I do respect my competitors always. But it is okay to say ‘I want to go faster than you and I think I can go faster than you’.
“I just want other athletes to be themselves and to not be shy about being themselves, and if they are still quiet individuals, then I am completely happy about that.”
A sensitive soul
Sam knows his persona has brought something of a mixed reaction. His outward nature might have you believe that does not bother him. Underneath it all though, he is a sensitive soul.
“I think I am someone who has already kind of divided people a lot, you might have a hundred fans and one hater. But that hater stings the most.
“You go to bed at night and you are thinking about that one hater often, and so it’s hard to deal with. Honestly, yeah, I just think it’s hard to deal with.
“I can come up as social media and being so confident and being so clear, but often, I’m so nervous and I feel like I’m ripping the earth apart and I just don’t know if it’s going to be right.
“But I just do and live by who I am, and that’s all I can do.”