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International Women's Day

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The Women Who Have Inspired Us as Athletes

International Women's Day

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. 

Amazingly, International Women's Day has been observed since the early 1900s. Knock me over with a feather, but who would have thought it’s been observed for so long?

In line with the true meaning and celebrating International Women’s Day together as a sport-focused company, we called on our tribe of women triathletes and posed the question, ‘which women athletes have inspired you and why?’

When you stop for a minute in our crazy women’s lives to think of who have been there inspiring us throughout the years, we all probably have a few powerful female role models who touched us personally. 

And so we present here, the amazing stories of women inspiring women on this International Women’s Day.  

It's our day in history, ladies. Rock on!

Nicole Jonas, Indiana > April LeMieux

Nicole-April: International Women's Day

Name: Nicole Jonas, Indiana

What type of athlete are you?: Marathoner (just looking into tri, but haven't done one yet)

Which woman has inspired you?: April LeMieux

Why does April inspire you?: April is a great example of an overcomer. After a lumbar fusion in 2010, ongoing bouts of rheumatoid arthritis, and a variety of other health issues, she still gets out there and runs. And it's not just the running, but the quantity and quality of it. 

She regularly runs ultramarathons and trail races, and and has many times won her age group in shorter races. She is working on qualifying for Nationals. I've watched her have to pull out of races last-minute due to her health, only to get back up and get out there again as soon as she recovers. 

This girl does not give up! That's an inspiration.

How has April inspired you? I met April through our shared membership in Hogwarts Running Club, when our respective houses were paired up for a challenge race. She and I were partnered up to encourage each other throughout the online race, and we both discussed dealing with various health issues and how to get past them (I was racing with an undiagnosed stress fracture at the time). 

I noticed how encouraging she was to all runners, no matter how new or advanced they were. And even though she was highly competitive with herself, she always made sure to make room for people just starting out in the sport. It's definitely the attitude every athlete should have, and it's part of what makes our sport so special. 

I have tried to keep this same attitude myself as I started leading a local running club, by making it our policy that no one runs alone, even if that means someone (often me!) has to drop back a speed group for the day to run with a new member that doesn't have a partner. We are all in this together.

Gina Ostrander Cornell > Amy Downs

Gina-Amy International Women's Day

Name: Gina Ostrander Cornell

What type of athlete are you?: I am on my sixth attempt for Ironman - IMCOZ I finished in 17:30:33

Which woman has inspired you?: Amy Downs

How does Amy inspire you?:  Amy survived the Oklahoma City bombing and her story is about living as much as it is about triathlon.

Amy has inspired me just with her message of looking at life differently. Her message is fitting to triathlon or athletics as well as daily living.

She was the FINAL finisher at IMAZ in 2017 with minutes to spare. She's a lovely soul! I've never met her in person but she's just one of those people who you like immediately because of her spirit.

NOTE: Check out this amazing interview with Amy Downs on Ironman

Joy Place-Kranefuss > Lauren Opipari

Joy-Lauren International Women's Day

Name: Joy Place-Kranefuss

What type of athlete are you?: Runner - marathon, half marathon and shorter distances. Recently I have gotten into triathlons and plan to do a 70.3 this August. But mostly I love running. 

I’m an Angel for MyTeamTriumph. We help our Captains finish races from 5Ks to Half marathons and sprint/Olympic triathlons

Which woman has inspired you?: Lauren Opipari

How does Lauren inspire you?: My friend Lauren has cerebral palsy. I met Lauren when she was a student at the school where I teach. Lauren inspires me to run more because she can’t and I get to act as her legs so she can race like I do.

At the Boulder Sunrise Sprint Tri this past summer I was there to act as a Sherpa. All day long, she’d look at me and let me know that she wanted me to be on her team. Just like she wanted me to push her in the Hot Chocolate 15k the year before. Lauren wanted me to be on her team. I told her I hated swimming BUT for her I’d try to do my first triathlon.

So I trained and completed my first on my own so I knew I could race with her for the Boulder Sunset Tri. Unfortunately the night before the Boulder Sunset, Lauren got sick. So here I am today still training for triathlons so I can race with her this year. She is totally my inspiration. I love training. But I love training knowing that she’s going to be able to race with me! She helps me be a better person!

Cheryl Johnson > Tara Davis

Cheryl-Tara International Women's Day

Name: Cheryl Johnson

What type of athlete are you?: I'm an Ironman 70.3 triathlete, marathoner, and pathetic swimmer!

Which woman has inspired you?: Tara Davis

How does Tara inspire you?: I was in a bad accident in 2013 in which Tara brought me back to life with her motivation....

I watched her when I couldn't move, I watched her when I couldn't walk, and I watched her while I relearned everything.....long story but it's not about me it's about her Tara Davis I chase her speed in running and cycling ....she is humble and kind!

She is true and believes in me when I wanna quit!!!! I have no quit in me because of her.....i have accomplished two full 26.2s, one Ironman 70.3, and hopefully a full Ironman because of her! How?  Because she is Tara that's how:)

Nadya Dhadiala > Haley Chura

Nadya-Haley International Women's Day

Name: Nadya Dhadiala

What type of athlete are you?: Geez,, that's a tricky one. Well, I take that back, that is it - I am the weird athlete. I am 6 times Ironman, but I am also an ultra-runner and long distance swimmer (like 4-12 miles swims) . Recently I started tapping into cold water swimming. Overall it looks like I am doing things which not many people do. It does goes about training and non-training-related activities.

Which woman has inspired you?: Haley Chura

Why does Hayley inspire you?: Haley was my coach for 3 years. During all those time she was "getting me" more than anybody else around did. Her absolute brightness of character and her pure loving point of view for all things around and for all athletic endeavors including is so charismatic and so much coincides with what I love about life and sport.

Seeing her in real being like at the whole next level of human being development is truly inspiring for me , helps me to thing we all have our unique sparks and athletic talents and we should go for them "ALL OUT" (from our workouts).

How does Haley inspire you?: When I learned about her first time when looking for a coach here in Atlanta, I was totally amazed by how cheering and laughing and just happy person she is, and by how focused she is top most best at her athletic area of life as well. The combination of these two is so rare. She cheered on for all of my crazy training ideas!

"- Can I do 12 miles swim with having just average max 10K swim volume in 6 months and then do Ironman Louisville 4 months after that? " - YES!

"Can I do Leadville 100 mile run and 100 miles 4 months before that for training purposes and 7 miles swim 4 weeks after 100 miles run and Ironman Chattanooga after that in fall all while having busy work schedule and travels? " - YES!

She would direct me wisely , but she pulled the best out of me with every single "crazy" idea . This itself , this belief she had that these crazy events combined together are possible for me, was my inspiration from her side. And with all of that she helped me to keep tapping into the best version of me I didn't know I would be otherwise.

And then through the course of 1 year and then 1 more year I see her going through impossible - that bike crash and her comeback to podium like 9 times a year at Ironman and Half-Ironman events as a Pro? That was mind blowing!

And all of that - done with huge giving back to her community of athletes - she is teaching swimming, she is a coach for other absolutely smashing outstanding athletes I know : seeing the real result of her work in real life for real people is absolutely inspiring as well. I want to be like her when I grow up :) 

NOTE: Read Nadya's blog post about Haley here

Elizabeth Spitz > Andrea Lytle Peet

Elizabeth-Andrea International Women's Day

Name: Elizabeth Spitz

What type of athlete are you?: A triathlete

Which woman has inspired you?: Andrea Lytle Peet

Why has Andrea inspired you?: Andrea was my college roommate. She is a 36 year old female living with ALS while completing triathlons, half marathons and marathons. She inspired me to complete my first (of now many) triathlons in 2016. You can read more about her at

Andrea Lytle Peet was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 at the age of 33, less than a year after completing 5 triathlons, including a 70.3-mile half Ironman.

Remarkably, she has continued to participate in races. Since diagnosis, she has completed 3 triathlons, 4 half marathons, and 3 marathons. Her goal for 2016 is to do 12 races on her recumbent trike, each in honor of someone with ALS who has inspired her.

Karolina Hjelte > Kelly Lang

Karolina-Kelly International Women's Day

Name: Karolina Hjelte

What type of athlete are you?: A triathlete

Which woman has inspired you?: Kelly Lang

How has Kelly inspired you?: Kelly Lang is my biggest inspiration for doing tris. I wouldn't have dreamed about trying to do a tri before she convinced me. I have so many examples from social media and online interviews she's done with Ironman etc. She has inspired me in life as a female role model since I was 11 years old.

When she met her boyfriend some years ago as he was coaching her and some of her coworkers, she got really into tris and encouraged me to try it out too. She invited me to come watch her do her first European Ironman 70.3 soon after her very first Ironman 70.3 in California. I loved watching her and her boyfriend compete and they both convinced me to do a tri.

I got an entry level road bike and signed up for a local sprint. She wanted me to join the Women For Tri FaceBook page and she encouraged me the entire way leading up to the race and congratulated me after I had finished my first tri. I then watched her race at the 70.3 World Championship in Austria and THE Ironman World Championship race in Kona along with Moira and Kyrsten that year.

While her boyfriend and I cheered for her on that magical course, he convinced me to sign up for a HIM. (The video clip of it is sooo funny. My reaction was to laugh at the suggestion.) They both convinced me to do more tris, so the following season I did another sprint and an olympic as well as a half marathon, along with the usual 5 and 10k races I've done since I was little, before watching her boyfriend and some of the fabulous women from the FB page compete in Kona.

By then, I had already signed up for my first full marathon and was inspired to sign up for my first Ironman 70.3. I finished both races and signed up for this year's races right afterwards along with a second Ironman 70.3 as well. Then Kelly and her boyfriend decided to sign up for the marathon I'm doing next month, so if they start too all three of us will be doing the same race on the same course.

To think I wouldn't have done anything longer than a 15k race and never would have thought of doing a tri if they hadn't convinced me. Sometimes all you need is some (or lots of) encouragement from some awesome super athletes.

After five tris and currently signed up for 2 more Ironman 70.3's I guess I can call myself a triathlete now.

More Inspirations for International Women's Day

Name: Jessica Cooney 

My BFF and training partner Kelley Stanley. She is relentless, overcomes any challenge and is a mom, nurse, triathlete and the most calm, composed, and kind person I know. And she completed her second ironman even though she started puking early on the bike and continued through the entire race!!! Finished literally dragging herself to the line with 1 min to spare!!! we call her a mental giant!

Name: Alyce Edwards

Anna Dave Staples was my inspiration to get into the sport. When this 60 year old woman is training for an Olympic distance and says "if I can do it then you can do it". Without her I wouldn't be into it now.

Name: Megan Ray Malanga 

My friend and former track mate Maria. She's a retired DEA agent (worked Miami in the 80's), in her mid 50's and crushes all of her races. Always on the podium. Suffered a near fatal bike accident a few years ago, but survived and came back stronger. She's truly my hero!

Name: Anna Taranenko 

Sara Randolph, San Francisco chapter leader of California Triathlon. With the full time job and 4 kids she is killing it!

Name: Beth Wenger 

My friend and high school classmate BethAnn Telford is that voice in my head that says "never give up because anything is possible." She has been my inspiration for years! BethAnn is an endurance athlete and 12 year brain cancer survivor who has dedicated her life and athletic pursuits to raising awareness and funds for much needed research for finding a cure for brain tumors, particularly in children. 

She has raised over $835,000 for brain cancer research so far. Two of her biggest athletic accomplishments are completing the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, in 2012 and the World Marathon Challenge--running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 consecutive days --last year.

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