The decision continues the ongoing discussion of what role professional triathletes play in the sport and how much they should be paid for top performances.
Life Time Tri, the leading race series for short course, non-drafting competition, revealed this week it would eliminate most of its professional prize purse in favor of focusing on the age-group experience.
“We continue to see significant opportunities to introduce more men and women to engage in this healthy way of life sport, while enhancing the range of available tools and training programs they need to prepare and succeed,” Life Time Senior Vice President Kimo Seymour said in an email to Triathlete on Thursday, March 6. “With this in mind, and in order to concentrate our investments in this realm, we have made the decision to discontinue offering a pro purse (aside from the Panasonic New York City Triathlon).”
Last year the pro series consisted of Life Time Tri South Beach, Life Time Tri Cap Tex, Life Time Minneapolis Triathlon, the New York City Triathlon, the Chicago Triathlon and the championship race in Oceanside. At that final event in Oceanside in October, Life Time handed out a $200,000 prize purse for the individual race, $200,000 for the overall series and $50,000 as part of its Toyota Triple Crown Series.
The shift in focus (and dollars) will turn to growing existing and new triathlon events as well as other Life Time initiatives, such as the beginner-friendly Commit to Tri series and the Women For Tri initiative.
What This Means For Non-Drafting, Short Course Athletes
Life Time’s news came as a devastating blow to many short-course specialists, still reeling from last month’s news the HyVee Elite Cup Triathlon, once a 1.1 million dollar event, would cease to exist.
“With the Hy-Vee Triathlon no longer taking place in addition to the Life Time Series, short course non-drafting is almost nonexistent for professionals,” said pro Sarah Haskins, who won the series championship in 2011 and 2012. “There are still a few iconic races on the schedule, like the St. Anthony’s Triathlon and Alcatraz.”
“I’m disappointed about the loss of a great American race series that provided both new and experienced local professionals with an opportunity to race in the states, in front of home crowds, while providing motivation and encouragement to triathletes that usually just watch us on webcasts while we race in remote destinations,” said pro Sara McLarty, who won the series in 2010.
American Alicia Kaye, the two-time reigning series champion who has made a large part of her living on the Life Time Series, expressed concern over what this means for the sport on Twitter.
“Also curious how no Oly. Distance non draft pro racing w/ $, may affect the development of our sport.”
Thanking Life Time
Though the reaction from the pro community has been mostly of concern for the distance/sport, a few pros also thanked Life Time for their contribution over the years.
Greg Bennett, who made a career off of the series back in the early 2000s and took home a large chunk of change for sweeping the entire series in 2007, reacted on Twitter.
@GregBennett1: “@LTFTrisSeries @LifeTimeFitness Thanks for the most amazing 14 years. Your support & commitment to #Triathlon and the pro’s was 2nd to none!”
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to race in the Life Time Series in years past,” Haskins told us. “I hope that soon another prestigious short course non-drafting race series will happen here in the United States.”
“I am grateful for the many years that I raced the Lifetime/Toyota Cup races and the support that they have provided for 10-plus years,” McLarty commented.
Four-time Olympian Hunter Kemper, who has consistently raced on the Life Time circuit, also thanked the organization on Twitter.
@HunterKemper: “THANK YOU @LifeTimeTri @lifetimefitness for changing triathlon w/ your historic prize $, media, and visibility the past 15 years! GRATEFUL!”
The Big Picture
The Life Time news is a part of a bigger development happening in the sport of triathlon. Last year, we named the issue of prize purse changes the most impactful development of 2014. What are professional triathletes’ roles in the growth of the sport and how much do they deserve to be paid for top performances?
ITU, Ironman, Rev3, Challenge and now Life Time have all made drastic prize purse changes—some adding, some redistributing and some all-together eliminating money—over the past 12 months on this front.