As you know, I’ve been involved with the 50 Women to Kona campaign all year. First as a social media participant, then behind the scenes plotting a bit with like-minded co-conspirators and then, a month or two after launch, as member of the board at Tri Equal.
Those Tri Equal folks are a good bunch. Like any fledgling organization, we’ve had some hiccups but every hitch has been quickly addressed because of a surplus of energy and goodwill. I’m lucky they will have me.
Today I saw this article about influential women in cycling because it posted to the Tri Equal Facebook page. I know it is not dispositive and it is insiderish to the cycling industry, but it begs the question, who are the influential women in triathlon?
The following is off the top of my head. It is not comprehensive nor is it done with any analytical rigor. It is personal and subject to change. What do you think of the list? Who do you find influential? In alphabetical order, I present a first look at the influential women in triathlon.
- Mirinda Carfrae — Is record-setting champion from Australia. With four Ironman world championship wins and six podiums out of seven attempts on Kona, she has one of the most recognized faces in the sport and a devastating run. Carfrae is paving the way for cross-over athletes through her sponsorship deals with running shoe company New Balance and other roles as a sponsored athlete (Chocolate Milk anyone?).
- Emily Cocks — Is a pro who many won’t recognize because she is not on the cover of magazines or the top step of the podium at international races. However, she is the co-host of the hugely entertaining and informative race previews done on the Fantasy Triathlon podcasts hosted by the growing TRSTriathlon platform. Cocks is making the sport more interesting for the casual observer by creating a market for in-depth analysis and prediction.
- Sara Gross — Is co-founder at Tri Equal and perhaps the most vocal and visible agitator for reforms to improve the sport for women. She frequently writes articles in-depth articles for Witsup.com where another leading woman in triathlon hangs her hat, Stef Hanson. Gross’ fact-based investigations and advocacy are making an impact on bubble surrounding the sport making more and more participants ask, “Is this what I expect of the people organizing the events that soak up so much of my energy.”
- Kate and Kyra — Represent all the women who are not famous but are out there making it happen. Kate co-founded a tri-specific shop that then sponsored my first team. Kyra just took her pro card and serves as president of my new team. They race, encourage, volunteer, wrench bikes, cajole and generally do good things in the sport. There are tens of thousands of women like them, but these are the two I know making my local triathlon community a little better. In many ways, they also represent the most important woman to the industry — the next woman to enter the sport is likely to come in because she was welcomed and nurtured along by someone already in the sport. Someone they know and trust. These women are found everywhere — they improve and grow the sport in subtle but tangible ways.
- Rachel Joyce — Is like so many other accomplished professionals in the sport. She is available to age groupers at all her races, she is quiet about her many significant accomplishments in sport, she has experience in a high-pressure career outside of sport (in her case, law), and she races with ferocity giving no quarter to her competitors. Like Sara, Rachel is putting her time and energy behind the movement to improve the sport as a leader at Tri Equal as well as a partner in activities with the kids in her adopted hometown of Boulder. We may look back at 2015 to see that her work with Team Bravo and major non-endemic sponsors like Coca Cola change the informal structures of the sport as well — from developing professionals, to expanding the footprint in South America and bringing new money into the sport, there is a lot of good that happens around her.
- Siri Lindley — Has unimpeachable racing chops. She is also the most high profile female coach in the world and she personally coaches some of the winningest women in the sport. Need to know more? See Team Sirius.
- Paula Newby-Fraser — Is a legend. However, that would not make her influential today if not for her continued involvement in the sport. Among other roles, she serves as the pro ambassador for Ironman which means the largest race company, with the biggest races, attracting the most people to the sport have her involved as a model for age groupers and a liaison for pros. In a word, she has reach.
- Julia Polloreno — Is the editor-in-chief of Triathlete and Triathlete.com. Like Stef Hanson, she has her pulse on the people, trends, gear, races and other dynamics that make the sport so interesting.
- Chrissie Wellington — There are women still entering the sport because of her example — as a athletic champion and as ambassador for causes globally, people know and love the woman known for her smile.
- The women behind Smash and Coeur Sports — Hillary, Michele, Haley and Kebby are more than triathletes and small business owners. Certainly their success in creating and marketing women-specific kits make it easier for other women in the sport to get or stay involved. They are influential because both companies are building communities of interest that serve as anchors. They are reinvesting in the sport and into their most passionate customers.
- Dana Ann — because without my wife, her support and good attitude, and steadfast belief in dreaming big, I wouldn’t be involved at all. Because she is what influences me.
There you have it. Eleven bullets, sixteen individuals, two companies, some pros, some amateurs a few friends and very little editing — because otherwise it wouldn’t be off the top of my head.
UPDATE — You may ask, what about Daniela Ryf the former Swiss Olympian and reining Ironman champion at both 70.3 and in Kona? I think she is one of the most interesting women in the sport. Interest in, and awareness of, her will only grow. But I don’t think she is currently influencing the sport as much as the women mentioned above. Over the long term, she has tremendous “influence potential.” Also, you may ask why Smash and Coeur but not Soas which is another company geared toward women. I think what makes Smash and Coeur so interesting is not their target market, but the attraction each has with their customer base. They are on the trajectory of Harley Davidson or Ironman — I could actually imagine someone getting a tattoo of their brand logo because it signals desirable attributes and inclusion into a “club.”