Witsup was a platform created with many missions in mind. One of them was to improve gender equality in all facets of triathlon, which is why we are honoured to present this “open letter” generated by a group of passionate women, penned for the Women For Tri Board of Advisors. Two weeks ago we published part one of a four part series by Sara Gross on gender equality in triathlon (see here), and this week we continue the discussion in more depth, kicking off the week with this open letter. Please note some of the digital signatures at the bottom of this letter, including a host of Supportive Dudes as well – get involved.

As the newly-formed “Women for Tri” Board of Advisors sat down for their first meeting last week, a number of concerned citizens of the triathlon community penned a letter to the board members asking them to consider the question of equal slots for female pros at World Championship races. A number of influential people are among the signees including Multiple Ironman Champions and World Champions, Olympians, high profile coaches and industry leaders.

As the Board continues to debate the issues, the many who support equality feel that this is a fundamental question of right and wrong. As such, the letter is now an “open letter” inviting all members of the triathlon community to go to www.womenfortri.org to comment and show their support. The authors recognize that it is one of many discussion points on the table for the women on the board and that time is required to discuss all the issues.


Dear Women for Tri Board of Advisors:

Congratulations on being named to the Women for Tri Board of Advisors. We applaud you for taking on the important task of increasing female participation in our sport. While we recognize that there are a multitude of approaches to increasing female participation, we want to bring to your attention the ongoing issue of inequality for our female professionals.

Ironman currently offers 50 slots for the professional men and 35 slots for the professional women at the Ironman World Championships and 70.3 World Championships. Ironman claims that the reason for this inequitable treatment is that the male-to-female percentage of all athletes competing in 70.3 and 140.6 distance races globally is 67 percent to 33 percent and that the professional women’s field is not as competitive as the professional men’s field.

Regardless of the reasons Ironman uses to justify this inequality, the disparate treatment of professional women at the very highest levels of the sport has a trickle-down effect on women of all ages and abilities. How can anyone, let alone a female triathlete,  justify to her daughters, sisters and friends that “Anything is Possible” when opportunities for women are less possible than opportunities for men? We ask you to consider this issue as one of the many important issues on the table.

We hope that as you sit down in Tampa this week to discuss broadening the appeal of triathlon to women, you will consider both the benefits of offering professional women equal representation at the Ironman World Championship and the perception of discrimination that accompanies Ironman’s current policy. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like additional information about the points we have raised, please do not hesitate to contact any one of us.

We have all given detailed consideration and analysis to this topic and can offer a full evaluation of the issues should you as a group or as individuals like to learn more. We look forward to receiving a formal read-out from the meeting and actionable recommendations to taking forward the objectives of the Women for Tri Board of Advisors.

Very Truly Yours,


Corinne Abraham – Professional Triathlete

Paolina Allan- Professional Cyclist

Sue Aquila – Entrepreneur, Coach, 3x Kona Qualifier and 10X Ironman Finisher

Sally Bergesen – Founder and CEO of Oiselle

Kathryn Bertine – Professional Cyclist, Filmmaker and Author

Jordan Blanco – Entrepreneur, Investment Professional, Writer, 4x Kona Finisher


Lori Bowden – Multiple Ironman Champion

Ruth Brennan Morrey-  Professional Triathlete, IM 70.3 Champion and Psychologist

Kelly Burns Gallagher – Attorney, Writer and 7x Ironman Finisher

Katie Button MScPT – Physiotherapist, Professional XC Cyclist and Triathlete

Leanda Cave – Ironman World Champion

Haley Chura – Ironman Champion

Marilyn Chychota- Elite Triathlon Coach

Emily Cocks – Professional Triathlete and Swim Coach

Jessica Cohen – Saucony Triathlon Manager

Jeanne Collonge – Ironman 70.3 Champion and Embrunmen Record-Woman

Kevin Collington – Professional Triathlete

Linsey Corbin – 5x Ironman Champion

Ben Cotter – Professional Triathlete

Justin Daerr –  Ironman Champion

Matt Dixon –  Elite coach and founder of Purplepatch Fitness

Tim Don – Ironman Champion

Jessie Donavan – 3x Ironman Champion

Mary Eggers RN – Nurse, Coach and 3x Kona Qualifier

Lauren Fleshman – Founder of Picky Bars and 2x USA 5K Champion

Helle Frederiksen – Olympian and Professional Triathlete

Joe Friel – Elite Triathlon Coach and Author

Julia Gajer – Professional Triathlete and Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Champion

Beth Gerdes- Professional Triathlete and 14x Ironman Finisher

Alyssa Godesky – Professional Triathlete and 14x Iron Distance Finisher

Dr. Lucy Gossage – 3x Ironman Champion

Caroline Gregory- Professional Triathlete and 16x Ironman finisher

Dede Griesbauer – 2x Ironman Champion

Sara Gross PhD – 2x Ironman Champion

Monique Grossrieder – Professional Triathlete

Jennie Hansen – Ironman Champion

Stef Hanson – Editor in Chief of witsup.com

Ryan Heisler – Retailer, Writer and Marketer

Mike Hermanson – Professional Triathlete

Ben Hobbs aka The Real Starky -Provocateur and Host of TRS Radio

Kebby Holden – Founder of Coeur Sports and 3x Kona Qualifier

Tenille Hoogland- Policy Analyst,  Coach, 2x Ironman 70.3 Champion

Jeremy Howard- Professional Triathlete

Mareen Hufe – Professional Triathlete and Kona Qualifier

Chris Hutchens – Team Director, Maverick Multisport

Kirsty Jahn (Smith) – Professional Triathlete

Lisa Mensink- Olympian, Professional Triathlete and Head Coach of Kronos Triathlon Club

Jessica Jones Meyers – Captain, US Army, Combat Veteran and Professional Triathlete

Rachel Joyce – 3x Ironman Champion

Danelle Kabush – 3x Xterra World Championship Medalist

Rebekah Keat – 6x Iron Distance Champion

Meredith B. Kessler – 7x Ironman Champion

Stephen Kilshaw – Professional Triathlete

Silken Laumann-4x Olympic Silver and Bronze Medallist, Speaker, Writer and Child Advocate

Sarah Lehman – CEO, ENVE

Ana Lidia Borba – Professional Triathlete, 70.3 Amateur World Champion and 3x Brazil’s LD Elite Champion

Emma-Kate Lidbury – 6x Ironman 70.3 Champion and Journalist

Clint Lien – Ironman Champion Coach and Co-founder of Mercury Rising Triathlon

Caroline Livesey – Professional Triathlete

Mark “Dark Mark” Machell – Iconoclast and Podcaster

Doug Maclean – Professional Triathlete

Amy Marsh – 4x Ironman Champion

Brandon Marsh –  Professional Triathlete

Katya Meyers – Professional Triathlete, Endurance Coach and 5x Kona finisher

Luke McKenzie – 6x Ironman Champion

Melanie McQuaid – 3x XTERRA World Champion

Catriona Morrison – 2x Ironman Champion and Sports Marketer

Angela Naeth – Ironman Champion and Multiple Ironman 70.3 Champion

Tara Norton –  Triathlon Coach and Registered Massage Therapist

Jake Pantone – Director of Marketing, ENVE

Jillian Petersen- Professional Triathlete

Sarah Piampiano – Ironman 70.3 Champion

Ben Powell – Ceramic Speed

Tawnee Prazak – Endurance Coach, Sports Podcaster and Ironman Finisher

Thorsten Radde – Entrepreneur, Blogger, Podcaster and 4x Iron Distance Finisher

Anjana Rajan – Team USA Triathlete and Duathlete

Cristina Ramirez – Writer TriathlonMami.com and Co-Founder ThumbsUp International

Lisa Roberts (Ribes) – Professional Triathlete, Principal Landscape Architect

Molly Roohi – Professional Triathlete, Coach, Kona Qualifier and 6x Ironman Finisher

Matthew Rose – Coach & Founder, Dynamo Multisport

Kim Schwabenbauer, RD – Professional Triathlete and Kona Qualifier

Laura Siddall – Professional Triathlete, 4x Amateur World Champion

Jess Smith – Professional Triathlete

Lesley Smith – Professional Triathlete

Karen Smyers –  Ironman World Champion and Multiple World Champion

Nicola Spirig – Olympic Gold Medalist & Ironman Champion

Professor Sarah Springman

Brett Sutton – Elite Triathlon Coach

Sonja Tajsich – 3x Ironman Champion

Karen Thibodeau, RN, Professional Triathlete

David Tilbury-Davis – Elite Triathlon Coach PhysFarm Training Systems

Chrissie Wellington – 4x Ironman World Champion

Heather Wurtele – 6x Ironman Champion

Trevor Wurtele – Ironman Champion

Suzanne Zelazo, PhD – Professional Triathlete


About The Author

Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP

Serious about what I do, but don’t take myself too seriously

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172 Responses

    • Lois Barmby

      As youth co-ordinator for Windrush tri club London UK we have 50/50 male female juniors at our sessions. They should all be able to look up and aspire to the same opportunities.

  1. Kevin Levi-Goerlich

    Coach of Maryland Triathlon and Mini Cow Tri Club, IMLP 18-24 AG Champ and Kona Finisher.

  2. Meredith Novack

    Women should not have to justify their existence. We have value and we add value. I support 50/50.
    100% worthy to have equal slots…also if the WTC wants to grow the women’s side then the WTC should grow it- not make it a condition of some volunteer female board. Pro female athletes should be held to the same standards as the pro men and not have to do additional work.

  3. Timothy "James" LiVolsi Jr

    Age Group Triathlete, 2x 70.3 World Championship Qualifier, Former D1 Swimmer.

    No excuses, equal slots. This is an opportunity to proactively generate more female engagement. Don’t wait for the #’s to creep up, force the opportunity!

  4. Jed Hurt

    Average 70.3 athlete – better Dad. Better dad thanks to a supportive wife and daughter

  5. Lori Cameron

    This issue was dealt with in in the International Triathlon Union, through pressure from the ITU Women’s Committee, back in the 80s/90s, and resolved – there are equal placings and prize money at ITU Worlds and the Olympics.
    I think it is a bit overdue for Ironman to stop this form of discrimination.
    Time for action – encourage more women into the sport, recognise women’s achievements equally.

    (I’m a past triathlete, past ITU Women’s Committee chair – now triathlon observer, family doctor, and supporter/practitioner of sustainable living – which includes equal access to resources for everyone). :-)

  6. Scott Daley

    Just want to share my support for this letter. No reason to not give women an equal number of slots in the Ironman triathlon world championships. From an amateur medium-distance runner who, if he learns to enjoy bike riding and get better at swimming, might attempt a triathlon at some point.

  7. Claire Pendlebury

    Age grouper and mum to a daughter who did her first tri this weekend. Want her to know that her life’s path will not be blocked simply because she was born female.

  8. Carolyn "Curly" Skyer

    Wife, Mom, world record holder, and triathlete. I have been a pro in other sports and know first hand how hard it is to make a living as a woman! We work as hard, train as hard, and put our hearts into it just like the guys, yet we get half the money. If “Anything is possible” then Ironman should be the first organization to take a stand and offer 50/50 to men and women!

  9. Charlotte Gonzalez

    Triathlete, writer, and personal trainer. Mother to a girl and a boy who both deserve the same opportunities.

  10. Jill Skinner

    2x Iron Distance Finisher, triathlete for 10 years, tv producer. Thank you for fighting for equality!

  11. Alan Grove

    Iron-dabbler, lucky husband to an amazing wife and proud Dad to two utterly awesome and unstoppable little girls.

  12. Madeleine Cozine

    Multi-sport AG’er, teacher, supporting gender equality so my students can have lots more opportunities than I did – that’s how we develop talent and grow the sport!

  13. Dottie Dorion

    The I.T.U. Women’s Committee implemented equality for women triathletes decades ago. Dr. Lori Cameron, Australia, Dr. Sarah Springman, Eng. myself, U.S.A., and several others from around the world were the “Movers and Shakers” to make this happen officially. Initially, the women has fewer slots at races compared with men, very unequal prizes and money and other inequities. In my senior years now, I cannot for the life of me understand why The Ironman has continued to discriminate against women in this pretigious race.
    We look forward to a long overdue postivie decision for equality for women in The Ironman.

  14. Kath Hodgson

    Triathlete and Mum to a teenage girl who competed in her first triathlon in 2014.

  15. Helen Lathrope

    Long overdue – look forward to positive results!
    Newbie triathlete, training for my first on 40th birthday :)

  16. Melonie MacDonald

    Dentist, 4 X Ironman, 1X Kona Finisher, 1X 70.3 World’s Finisher, #LikeAGirl

  17. Greg Karas

    Random age grouper, believer in fair play, understand why this is needed, confused because I thought it was 2015.

  18. Jennefer Francis

    Wife, Mum, lawyer, runner and occasional triathlete.

    I want my two daughters to know (and believe) that anything is possible.

  19. Jo Homer

    Mum to girls, 4x ironman finisher, co-founder of tri for me fitness – women’s only tri camps, coach, want to show my girls “Anything is Possible” #likeagirl


    Why should there be a different number of slots? A lot of the women are beating the male Pro athletes

  21. Suzanne Flannigan, PhD

    Suzanne Flannigan, PhD – age group triathlete, author and business owner with a blended family of 5 girls, 2 granddaughters and 5 grandsons. Equality is essential, and truly successful equality is embedded philosophically, culturally and generationally!

  22. Kelley Hess

    PhD, 3x Kona Qualifier (2x finisher), 2x Xterra World Champs Qualifier (1x finisher)

  23. Lisa Pringle

    25 years in the business so many great steps forward but one basic element gone backwards. Change the direction.

  24. Crystal Bergeron

    Wife, mother, grandma in 3 months to a wee lass, and age group IM triathlete.

  25. Tony West

    New to triathlon, strongly supported by wife and 2 daughters. I should not have to explain to my 2 daughters why they are being treated differently to boys.

  26. Cathleen Knutson

    Professional Triathlete and former D1 college athlete (thanks primarily to Title IX)

  27. Fiona Thomas

    Age Grouper, Wife of an Ironman, Mother.
    As per an earlier post, I should not have to explain to my kids why one has more options than the other.
    Same training, same distances, SAME SPOTS AVAILABLE Ironman!

  28. Elesa Wedemeyer

    40+ yo woman and mother of three–never a pro, but still enjoy a PR. Happy that I don’t have to race any race I don’t want to–plenty of those for us AGers to choose from. Speak with your $ people and walk away from IM until they pull their head out of their A$$. Have never done an IM branded race and won’t until 50/50. Pros can’t walk away, but we can. Sponsors: Back up your female athletes and pull your IM $!

  29. Max Gaitan

    University of Virginia Triathlon Club, Vice President
    Training for first Ironman 70.3

  30. Elisha Cook

    Competitive age group triathlete w/9-years in triathlon, Ironman finisher, military officer & strong supporter of women’s equality and equal opportunities for all. Also a fan of pro female triathlete Rachel Jastrebsky :)

  31. Jeffrey Parr

    Competitive AG triathlete, Ironman finisher, Coach, and Exercise Physiologist to Navy SEALs.

  32. LISA RAE

    Sprint triathlete, phys ed teacher, mother of girls, lifelong swimmer

  33. 50 Women to Kona, Mud, and Social Media and Rain ⋆ Swim Bike Mom

    […] “The disparate treatment of professional women at the very highest levels of the sport has a trickle-down effect on women of all ages and abilities. How can anyone, let alone a female triathlete,  justify to her daughters, sisters and friends that “Anything is Possible” when opportunities for women are less possible than opportunities for men?” (Witsup.com / Source). […]

  34. Maintaining our Tradition of Equality ‹ Witsup.com

    […] For the triathlon community as a whole, let us continue to see this issue for what it is. The pro women are being denied the same opportunity to race at the World Championships that is afforded their male counterparts. I hope we can all find the parts of ourselves that are willing to speak out, hit like, retweet or sign the letter here […]

  35. Karen Haubensak

    AGer, mother, wife, professor.

    IM corporation — time to let go of your arguments against 50/50 (i.e., “35 represents a larger proportion of female pro pool than 50 does for the male pro pool” and “there’s not enough room on the pier”). There may have been some logic to the proportionality argument, but over time, that argument is not holding up against the “perception of equality” argument.

    Look at the list of names that penned the open letter. Pay attention to that and change your position. Move forward with the times we’re in!!


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