Chris Lieto is a professional triathlete and the winner of the 2006 Ironman Japan, 2005 Ironman Canada, and 2002 Ironman Wisconsin triathlons. In 2009, I witnessed Chris race at IRONMAN championship on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was powerful to hear Mike Reilly-The Voice of IRONMAN call Chris’s name as he crossed the finish line in second place.
In my interview with Chris Lieto he called in from a rocky shoreside lava flow in Maui, HI. He setup for our call while his son surfed the incoming sets of waves. My favorite part of our conversation was about the topic of fulfillment and victory. Chris has stood on top of many podiums, but those victories weren’t enough to satisfy.
More Than Sport was born
The journey of MORE Than Sport began as a simple bike ride one early morning in Mexico. It was supposed to be a mere course check before a big race, but what I saw on my ride would change the way I saw the world forever. I was staying in a beautiful all-inclusive resort, as athletes often do when we travel to these amazing events. We enjoyed swimming pools, cold drinks, and healthy food as we rested up for our races.
The day before we were to compete, I left my air-conditioned room and began my ride along the coastline course. As I looked out across the scenic countryside, something caught my eye. Only 5 miles from the resort, several young children were perched in the trees along the trail. I peered in deeper and just beyond the tall shrubs saw an odd structure. With great sadness, I realized that I was looking at a home in conditions not fit for any human being. It was an overwhelming contrast from the safe brick walls that formed my own; their house was constructed of flimsy cardboard boxes and scraps of wood. My wheels kept spinning along the path and amongst the trees I saw snapshots of extreme poverty. There was an entire village of people living on the land outside that stunning resort, with only the trees to protect them from the blazing hot sun.
As a husband and a father, my heart broke for those people. My mind immediately turned to the thousands back at the resort. Most people simply fly into this beautiful tourist town, spend lots of money, and never see the desperation outside the hotel gates. I realized that not only is this kind of poverty apparent in third world countries, it’s happening in the very places we’re competing. The grounds we race on belong to a people in need. Instead of ignoring the problem, why not use sport as a vehicle for change? I decided that very moment that I would find a way to bring hope and restoration to those in need. I would work to bring together my fellow athletes to use their dedication and talents to change the communities in which we all play and compete each day. From that moment forward, MORE Than Sport was born.
Follow Chris Lieto on Twitter.