Athlete's Corner #4: Laura Siddall
We are delighted to introduce to you this week 3x Ironman Australia winner, Laura Siddall. We caught up with Laura last week to chat about her route to becoming a professional triathlete, her involvement with the PTO, and how she sees the PTO impacting the world of professional triathlon in years to come.
Growing up in the UK Laura was immersed in sport throughout her childhood, playing a variety of team sports and competing in Athletics as well. It wasn’t until her late 20s in 2008 when she was posted to Australia for a job that she got into Triathlon. First, she was fortunate to get her hands on tickets to watch Jan Frodeno win his Olympic title in Beijing (not knowing anything about the sport at this point) before being dragged into a charity bike ride by her colleagues and then signing up for an 8 week triathlon course in Sydney. All of this culminated in a local sprint race that she completed on a hybrid bike with flat pedals!
“Sport remained a hobby for a long time,” Laura explains, “I progressed through the Age Group ranks over 4-5 years and eventually managed to win 4 world titles as an amateur.” At this point her friends began telling her to turn pro but she knew her swim wasn’t good enough to race ITU, “In 2013 I did my first 70.3 in Hawaii and managed to win my Age Group and the overall amateur title for women, this gave me a qualification for Las Vegas 70.3 worlds where I went on to win again.” Laura knew at this point that it was going to be a turning point where she’d have an opportunity to go all in as a professional and see what she could do in the sport. “I resigned from my job, I hired a new coach and moved to San Francisco to start my life as a professional triathlete in 2014.”
Toe The Line: What would you say has been your biggest challenge since turning Professional as a Triathlete? Laura Siddall: Not feeling guilty about sitting on my sofa! I know it sounds silly but resting and recovering properly is important as a professional but I find it really hard to just do nothing. I always feel like I should or need to be doing something when sometimes I should just allow myself to chill out. TTL: Moving onto a topical subject this year, the PTO (Professional Triathlete’s Organisation), can we ask you what your initial thoughts and impressions were when you first heard about the PTO?
LS: I’ve been a firm believer in the PTO in its many different forms since it’s early days. There is a lack of a governing body in long distance Triathlon so it’s good to see the PTO try and fill part of that void. The PTO has had some highs and some lows on its way into the spotlight, but I think it’s a great initiative that will truly benefit athletes in the long run.
TTL: So how do you see the PTO influencing the evolution of professional triathlon over the next decade?
LS: As you allude to, I think it will take a bit of time because it will need time to develop the best structure and the right way of operating. My hope is that it will help develop the longevity of triathlon for all professionals, not just the top few percent. With the buy in of all the professionals, not just the household names, it will help develop a level of professionalism and create a pathway for the next generation in the sport as a whole. Beyond just the financial implications, it’s about the media, the visibility and the incredible humans and their stories. If the PTO is able help create coherence between the different event organisers (Ironman, Challenge and the smaller events companies as well), and oversee things like anti fraud, anti doping and the like then that would be great as well.
“If I can inspire even just one person to follow their dreams, or have an impact on someone’s life, then I think I would count that amongst one of my biggest achievements!”
TTL: How do you think they can make the sport more attractive as a profession for triathletes and a better commercial product for partners and sponsors?
LS: That will rely heavily on media coverage and the visibility that is created around the sport. I like the expression “you can’t be what you can’t see”, it’s all about creating role models and connecting the athletes with the viewers and the fans.
TTL: Are you able to tell us what the involvement of the athletes is like within the PTO?
LS: The PTO essentially operates in two parts, firstly there is the commercial arm which is run by the business leaders and corporate team who aren’t athletes. On the other side there is the athlete board and athlete committees who are nominated or volunteers. These committees work on things like anti-fraud practices, retirement plans, health & travel insurance and subjects like that which can help professionals improve their prospects as an athlete. I sit on the Anti-Doping / Anti-Fraud committee for example, and whilst we don’t hold any authority over that, what we do is talk to experts and survey what is done by the various bodies to see if we can bring any recommendations or improvements in the future. TTL: Final questions Laura, and an important one we believe, how do you think the PTO and event organisers can improve the landscape for professional women specifically?
LS: The PTO and event organisers would need to work together to help generate equal coverage of the races, which would create equal opportunities for sponsorship and visibility. Luckily we have equal prize money, which I know isn’t the case in many other sports, but if we are able to create fair racing (i.e. leaving a bigger gap to the Amateur Men start so they don’t impact the race dynamics out on the road) which in turn benefits from the same coverage as the men then I think that would already be a great step in the right direction. Finally, I think there is a lot that we as professional women can do as well in terms of self promotion, becoming role models and trying to inspire more women into the sport so that we can have deeper start lists and better races as well.
TTL: Thanks Laura, we have really enjoyed speaking to you today and really appreciate all the insight you have provided on your career and on the PTO. We’ll leave you with the final word, if you had one piece of advice for someone thinking of turning pro in triathlon, what would it be?
Laura Siddall: I would say firstly challenge the reasons why you want to be a pro, set yourself up with a good team around you and be ready to get your head down and work hard. You will need to be tough and resilient, but it’s definitely worth taking the leap and getting stuck in!