From Amateur to Elite: How to Become a Pro Triathlete

Jun 20, 2023
pro triathlete

Making the jump from amateur to pro in the world of triathlon is tough, competitive, and hard to maintain. That being said, it is a goal that many triathletes have, and one you just might be able to achieve. Today you’ll learn a little bit about how to become a pro triathlete, and some of the requirements to being an elite level competitor in the sport.

How Do You Become a Professional Triathlete in Canada?

Canadians dreaming of professional triathlon status have to meet a number of demanding criteria set out by Triathlon Canada. In order to compete at World Triathlon sanctioned events, you must obtain an elite level license known as the International Competition Card (ICC). To apply for an ICC, there are a number of requirements, some of which include:

  • Winning the overall age group in a Canadian championship or finishing within 1% of the winning finisher's time in your age group (can include events such as the Canadian Triathlon Championships or the Canadian Ironman Championships)
  • Performing well in prestigious international events can also be instrumental in earning an elite license (races such as the Ironman or Ironman 70.3 World Championships, for example)
  • Other requirements include being subjected to rigorous medical exams, complying with anti-doping regulations, and paying an annual fee

The above standards are there to ensure that you have the potential and capabilities of performing at a high level and having the country’s name across your chest come race day. It’s no small feat to compete at the national and international level, something that thousands of similar individuals are trying to do, and beginners are only just starting to dream of.

How Do You Become a Professional Triathlete in the USA?

In the United States, the process is slightly different. Athletes wishing to race as an elite triathlete in USA Triathlon sanctioned events must earn what is called a USA Triathlon elite athlete license, commonly referred to as a ‘Pro Card’. To get your Pro Card, your race resume must include one or more of the following:

  • Finish top-three in the amateur field of a qualifying race, which means participating in a race that features a professional field and offers a prize purse of $20,000 or more
  • Finish within 8% of the winning elite time in three USAT sanctioned events over the course of one year - each race must offer a prize purse of $5,000 or more
  • Finish in the top 10 overall at the World Triathlon Age Group World Championships
  • Finish in the top 10 overall amateur field at the Ironman World Championships

The elite triathlete status is, once obtained, eligible for three years. If not renewed, you must reapply and again meet eligibility through the race standards outlined above. In the USA, where the population is 10x that of Canada, this is a tremendously high standard that only the best athletes will be able to commit to and achieve.

(Image: Adobe Stock)

Can You Make Money as a Triathlete?

You can, but like every professional sport, it is very difficult. Living off of prize money for example is not a reliable way to make a living, and a possibility reserved for the top 1% of the 1% of triathletes. To give you some perspective, a race with $15,000 in prize money will have the winner taking home somewhere around $2,500. A lot of time and effort for little reward.

There are of course new and developing ways of making money in the sport, however. The advent of innovative leagues such as the Professional Triathlete Organization (PTO) and race formats like the Super League have significant funding behind them, and have paid out big dollars to athletes since their inception.

The possibility of sponsorship and brand deals is also there, especially if you can manage a top finish in a major world triathlon. Even having a popular social media account or vlogging channel offers financial opportunities in the form of ad revenue and less conventional sponsorships by leveraging your audience and followers.

Can you make money as a triathlete? Technically, yes. But is the road to financial freedom in the sport as clear cut as we’d like it to be - not so much. You can win $125,000 for winning the Kona World Championships…but you also have to win the Kona World Championships. Pro sports are a gritty business, and injuries are also always a looming threat to your financial security.

(Image credit: Adobe Stock)

How Many Hours Do Pro Triathletes Train?

Triathlon training alone requires a serious time commitment, and if you’re looking to compete on the world stage, you’re looking at an exponential increase in the amount of time devoted to the sport. Pro triathletes are training anywhere from 20-40 hours a week. The majority balance a regular job and family on top of it, and everything together can prove to be overwhelming.

Our programming here at Dynamic Triathlete can help you save on coaching costs, physio appointments, massage therapy, and even a gym membership. We have hundreds of follow-along, professionally designed workout, mobility, and injury-prevention routines that you can do right at home in 30 minutes or less. All for the cost of a few cups of coffee.

 If you want to race pain-free, and join a worldwide community of triathletes working hard to achieve their goals, sign up for our 7-day free trial by clicking here. Achieve your potential in the sport and see how far you can go! We can’t wait to have you here at Dynamic Triathlete.

Written by Eric Lister – Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist

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