The rise in triathlon participation amongst women appears to be continuing on an upward growth trajectory. At opposite ends of the globe, in the US and New Zealand, women’s triathlon is making its presence felt.
NCAA emerging sport
In the US, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Committee on Women’s Athletics reportedly has six out of 10 required letters of support that would establish triathlon as an ‘emerging sport.’
If triathlon gets recognised in this way, female triathletes in the US could attend college on an athletic scholarship in the not too distant future.
(An emerging sport is a sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to provide additional athletics opportunities to female student-athletes. Institutions are allowed to use emerging sports to help meet the NCAA minimum sports sponsorship requirements and also to meet the NCAA’s minimum financial aid awards.)
For female triathlon to be even more appealing at the collegiate level, advocates are also proposing races that are ‘shorter and faster’, i.e. Sprint distance, rather than iron distance events.
“The collegiate scene is definitely open to triathlon,” said Navy coach Billy Edwards. “The participation level is high already, and the sport is growing overall. If it were to become an NCAA championship sport, it would encourage schools to commit more resources to those participation opportunities. That’s what we want.”
Women edge out men at Wanaka
Women are also reported to be bucking the global trend for male dominance in triathlon at the Lake Wanaka Half in New Zealand. Female athletes are reportedly taking up more than 50% of the field in the scenic half iron distance triathlon that forms part of the Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival on 13-19 January 2013.
Currently 53% of the half distance field is made up of female athletes in a sport that is usually dominated by men. Challenge Wanaka Race Director, Victoria Murray-Orr, said it was extremely encouraging to see so many women competing in middle and long distance triathlon.
“It’s awesome to see more and more women stepping up to long distance racing,” she said.
“It was disappointing to see one of New Zealand’s key women’s triathlon series stop operating this year so to see such strong numbers at the Lake Wanaka Half is really encouraging and we hope these numbers will continue to grow as women use the relay teams to catch the triathlon ‘bug’!”
The Lake Wanaka Half relay team element offers a staged and achievable introduction into middle distance triathlon competition. 55 all-female teams have reportedly entered this year, compared to 35 all-male teams; plus there are 70 mixed teams.
“The relay teams are designed to build the sport from the ground up, actively introducing more people to this inspiring sport. We really hope that we’ll see more and more women going from racing one discipline, to two and eventually building to complete the half or full iron distance race as an individual,” continued Murray-Orr.
With the Lake Wanaka Half field capped at 1,000, team entries are already at capacity with a wait list in operation. Entries for the individual race are NZ$295 and remain open until 30 November 2012 or until capacity is reached.
The Lake Wanaka Half runs concurrently with the iconic Challenge Wanaka full iron distance triathlon. Part of the global Challenge Family series, Challenge Wanaka attracts professional and age group athletes from around the world, drawn to the world-renowned course on the edge of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area on New Zealand’s South Island.