With so many superstar athletes today whining about things like not getting enough playing time, appreciation, or money, it's refreshing to see an athlete like Chris Lieto giving back.
Lieto is America’s premier Ironman triathlete and is one of the favorites to win the 2010 Ford Ironman Championship on Oct. 9 in Kona, Hawaii, after placing a close second last year.
Lieto hasn't let his celebrity status within the triathlon community go to his head; he knows he has been blessed with amazing athletic talents, and his way of showing appreciation for that is to give back to the communities around the world where competitions take place.
After five weeks of training in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in preparation for the Kona Ironman, Lieto finished first in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon Classic Pro/Elite Sprint race. The event was attended by many celebrities who helped raise over a million dollars for Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Racing internationally, Lieto has competed in some of the most beautiful countries in the world. However, he said he also realizes that often hidden behind that beauty are children living in squalor and abject poverty. With that in mind, the Bay Area native decided to partner with World Vision and formed his own charity, More Than Sport, to help make a difference in those kids’ lives.
In June, Lieto won the Buffalo Springs 70.3 Triathlon in Texas and donated much of his winnings to More Than Sport as he often does.
On Sunday, Oct. 10, the day after the 2010 Ford Ironman Championship, Lieto and More Than Sport will be sponsoring a brunch for other athletes and fans to help raise money for the children of Kona in order for them to be able to afford school supplies, food, and a community center.
“We’ve always gone to Kona…we enjoy it, and then we leave," Lieto said on The Competitors radio show shortly before his interview with B/R. "I want to leave this year by leaving something behind and really give back to the community for allowing us to wreak havoc on the island for a week.”
In addition to helping the community of Kona, Lieto's efforts this year will also be benefiting the children of Kenya.
“The challenge was to get the message out there that our racing should be more then what were doing and make a difference around us,” Lieto said.
Lieto chose Hawaii to kick off his campaign by establishing a goal of sponsoring 141 Kenyan children. Each mile he races will represent one of those kids.
“While I am out there racing, I am not just doing it for my own glory, and my own race," Lieto said. "I’m doing each mile for each of those kids out there.”
Lieto recently took time to do an in-depth interview with Bleacher Report to talk more about the upcoming race and his charity efforts. Click over to the next slide for the full Q&A.