Born: February 7, 1972
Town: Red Bank
Chris Lieto was born February 7, 1972 in Red Bank. His family moved west when he was a boy and he grew up in Danville, California, east of San Francisco. Chris played baseball as a teenager, but was mostly drawn to sports that challenged his endurance, including soccer and swimming. He played water polo for San Ramon Valley High but did not run track. He went out for the cross-country team and realized he hated to run. Most of the cycling he did was on the beach.
Chris harbored dreams of going to the Olympics for the U.S. Water Polo team, but after playing a couple more years at Long Beach State he lost interest. After graduation, he got a job in the financial industry. He continued to swim but did not train seriously or start running until age 25, when he decided to enter his first triathlon. He won that event and was hooked. He turned pro at age 30, in 1972.
Chris won at least one Ironman race every year (except 2004) from 2002 and 2008. In 2009, he finished second in the Ironamn World Championships, leadng the race until the final moments. In 2011, he finished second again. By this time, Chris was widely regarded as the fastest cyclist in the sport, setting several course records.
Chris’s top sponsors were K-Swiss, PowerBar, Oakley and Trek bicycles. In his 20s and 30s, Chris he also supported his athletic career as a mortgage broker and fashion model. He also tried to develop a reality TV show. Chris helped to create BASE Performance, a nutritional supplement company for endurance athletes.
During a competition in Mexico, he was so struck by the gulf between the resort where he was staying and the poverty in the surrounding towns that he began a charity called More Than Sport, which raises money for children in poverty around the world.
Chris remained one of the world’s top triathletes into his early 40s by focusing on intelligent rest and recovery techniques, good coaching, and making sure his bike is fitted perfectly before each race. He now races out of Hawaii, where he lives with his wife and daughter.