By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
Kyle Smith wants to be the best triathlete in the world. German superstar Jan Frodeno, considered by many as the sport’s GOAT, reckons his Kiwi pal is part way there already.
Smith is the fascinating subject of the Professional Triathlete Organisation’s (PTO) latest short film, ‘Time To Step Up’. It shares the Taupo 25-year-old’s journey from bricklayer to No.34 in the latest PTO rankings and his lofty ambitions in the sport, fuelled recently by a chance meeting with Frodeno that led to them becoming training partners at their European bases in Girona.
“Twelve months ago I wouldn’t have predicted I’d be training with the greatest of all time and learning from what he has to teach me,” Smith says in the excellent PTO video which you can catch here:
The athlete-owned PTO has swiftly gone about changing the face of the sport with its athlete-first DNA, sweet-spot 100km races and lucrative prize purses. Smith credits the organisation for changing the trajectory of his career, describing his selection for last year’s Collins Cup with the resulting US$20,000 payout as the catalyst for him gaining a fiscal foothold in Europe as a full-time triathlete.
It also led to the training bromance with Frodeno. Smith doesn’t normally run early but did so one morning and bumped into Frodeno. Their chat morphed into a training partnership and friendship, building on the relationship forged at the Collins Cup.
Frodeno likes what he sees in the Kiwi who arrived in Europe with little more than a backpack, his bike in a cardboard box and a healthy dollop of determination. Smith did it so tough in the early days in Europe, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games champion Frodeno even shared some his his hand-me-down clothes to get the Kiwi through winter.
“Kyle Smith has done very well for himself, of course with very little competition. Then again you can always only race who is there on the day,” said the 41-year-old German who is also a three-time Ironman and two-time 70.3 world champion.
“But he’s definitely seems to be the strongest swim-biker in the sport at the moment.”
Smith knows it is the third leg of triathlon that he needs to improve to kick on to the sport’s top table.
“I really feel like my swim and my bike is world-class, but now I’ve got to improve the run. And so now it’s going to be really working on that, working on myself, working on my running, and just committing to developing myself as an athlete and just accepting that maybe I won’t be world-class yet in the next two, three months. But if I commit to being world-class in the next two years, that’s what I’m going to do.”
“As an athlete, I’m extremely hungry. I’m not in the sport to get rich. I’m in the sport to be the best in the world. I’m super passionate for the sport. Last year, I really felt like I could have been top ten ranked in the world. I really believe that I’m a better athlete than, I guess, than what I’ve shown on paper. I just want to be the best athlete that I can be.”
Despite a focus on his own improvement, the prize money he’s gained from the PTO races in the last year has enabled him to continue the journey. In 2021, his selection for Team International at the Collins Cup earned him $20,000 and in 2022, he earned $20,000 from PTO races by finishing 9th at the PTO Canadian Open ($18,000 USD) and then 24th in the PTO US Open ($2,000).
“You could say that the PTO is literally life-changing…and allowed me to be a full-time athlete and actually be secure in Europe.”