Over the last 12 years of racing triathlons, I’ve often spoken on my own experience of observing the transformation of individuals that participate in the sport now versus when I first started. Around 2007, it appeared there were very few individuals that looked like me that participated in triathlons. Though I was inspired by my college roommate and best friend, who is a powerful African American woman and now IRONMAN, in many of the races in which I competed, there were very few people of color.
In recent years, not just in the sport of triathlon, but also cycling, running, marathon racing, and even swimming, I’ve seen an incredible influx of people of color participating in these sports. And yet, one of the things that has been disturbing to me has been the representation or lack thereof in the depiction of them in these sports overall.
I’m very much self-motivated, so throughout the years, for me it has been about growing and improving in the sport of triathlon, while also inspiring and seeking to trail blaze by showing others, in particular African Americans and women, do swim, bike and run. I’m aware that others like me that are increasingly competing in marathons, triathlons, IRONMAN races, and more, however, why am I not seeing them depicted or celebrated, particularly in media outlets that cover these sports?
For 2019, some of the things I’m seeing and have become a part of speak to my desire for not just inclusion, but also honoring the variety and talent within these various sports.
This year I am a member of the ambassador team for Chicago Athlete Magazine, a publication that depicts, covers, and informs athletes and readers about various sports, races, events, training, groups, resources, and more in the Chicago-land area and beyond. Previously seeing limited depictions of athletes of color in various print and online media, being a part of this team fulfilled a deep set desire for me. I have embraced an increasing sense of responsibility for me to not just be a strong ambassador representing the magazine, but also an opportunity to emphasize what has been overlooked in the portrayal of the diversity of various sports.
In particular for the sport of triathlon, USA Triathlon released early this year their strategic plan for 2020. The plan includes a mission, vision, guiding principles, and areas, in which the organization seeks to focus and grow. Part of the growth area includes diversity and inclusion of the triathlon community of both women, as well as under-represented communities (of color and socio-economic status). It also seeks to explore outreach to communities or runners to increase their participation in the sport of triathlon.
As someone who has long wanted to see this, I find myself in the unique position to advocate for what USA Triathlon seeks to accomplish, as well as serve as an individual to promote representation as an ambassador for the sport. For me “diversity” & “inclusion” are not just a terms to give the appearance of embracing other people, but to truly seize, recognize, and showcase the talents and abilities of what is not the norm.
Time to Tri is a new initiative and strategic joint effort between USA Triathlon and IRONMAN, to grow the sport of triathlon by proactively recruiting and supporting athletes as they train for and compete in their first race.
I’m looking forward to continuing to inspire and bring new athletes to the sport of triathlon, but also to illustrate the transformation of the culture and participation within the sport, as well.