Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day- in triathlon, it's more than just a finish line.

I may no longer be in the game, but I'll forever be impacted and inspired by the women who taught me the game. One of the things that drew me to pursue triathlon, more than any other sport I've played, was the connection I felt with individual women in the sport, even those I only knew 'from afar'. Playing field hockey and lacrosse in high school, I never had a role model or idol in the sport, and every win was a team effort, not an individual display of courage and perseverance.

When I met Triathlon, that changed for me. In the late-2000's age of blogging and internet expansion, I 'got to know' the heroes of the sport as well as those just hitting the trenches like me. Over the years, I got to meet many of them in person and learned more about their stories along the way.

I realized that the inspiration I have found in these women was never simply because I saw them win a race. These women inspired me for reasons that went far beyond grabbing a finish tape.

This International Women's Day, I want to recognize some of the women who have inspired me for specific, yet unexpected reasons. I read a fantastic article this morning about the 12 "great" women of our sport.

"Celebrating Triathlon's Powerful Women" from

As I read along, I realized that many of these women are great to me for reasons that go far beyond their race resumes. I will always remember......

.....That time when I was just starting, that Michellie Jones stopped me mid pull-set in the pool and showed me exactly what I was doing wrong. Turns out you need to actually point the paddle down towards the bottom of the pool and push backwards, not just swish it aimlessly around. I still think of MJ's tip in every pull session I do.
Michellie is now also guiding Olympic Paratriathletes 

......That day when Gwen Jorgensen offered, without being asked, to take a picture with my daughter Wynne and her 2016 Olympic Triathlon Gold Medal.
Photo: Tommy Zaferes

...or that time in 2015,  when I watched Mirinda Carfrae toe the line of Ironman Melbourne only about 75% fit as she always saves her 110% fitness for Kona in October (she didn't publicize this, but we knew :) . She lined up professionally, gave it her all, on that day, and walked away with 7th place. She would have placed higher, but she spent the last kilometers helping her lifelong friend & competitor Annabel Luxford complete her first Ironman. Rinny stood back and cheered Annabel on to finish ahead of her.

.....Oh, and then when  Rinny & Alicia Kaye set up an aid station in the pouring rain at the Island House Triathlon when there was a shortage of volunteers. Just to help.
Rinny & Alicia

....and all of the countless times that one of the most undefeated triathletes of all time, Chrissie Wellington, has always made her voice heard. Chrissie takes a stand on what she believes in, despite any controversy she may cause. She has stood less than 100 meters from the finish line of an Ironman for minutes, waiting to cross that line to ensure her deserving female competitors got paid that day (remember the crazy 8% rule?). She speaks up on women's equality in triathlon, despite disdain from the organization that benefited from her amazing athletic feats.

quote from the 220 Triathlon article linked above re: 8% rule

..and then there is every. single. day. when I see Belinda Granger, 13-time Iron-distance champion, working harder off the course for the future of pros, especially women, to leave the sport a better place than she found it. She truly wants the sport to be better for the women in the game now and our daughters of the future. (Ok, Belinda wasn't in the article above, but she probably will be one day!)

...finally, even the "little things", like how following her retirement, Emma Snowsill ( 2008 Olympic Triathlon Gold Medalist) became a self-proclaimed "rent-a-runner" in her local Noosa, Australia community, helping up-and-comers in ITU and Ironman complete their tough track sessions and long runs, just for the love of the game.

Photo: Frank Wechsel

I have similar stories to share about Kathleen McCartney, Linsey Corbin, Meredith Kessler, and countless others..... But I'll leave you to create these stories and memories for yourself. This International Women's Day, I'm truly inspired by all of these sporting greats who have made triathlon more than just a sport. Thank you all!