by Jay Prasuhn

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” —Maya Angelou

Ed. Note: Today we celebrate what it means to inspire, push the envelope, challenge stereotypes, and break paradigms (and maybe the rules, too). So how do we celebrate achievement this International Women’s Day? We asked the leading women in our triathlon and gravel encampments just what it means to lead the charge for female empowerment. The answers—from a cadre of not just athletes and artists but also moms, daughters, sisters and wives—will leave you impressed and inspired.

Heather Jackson

I’ve always been ultra-competitive in anything I do—from racing my brothers and sister at everything, even if it wasn’t a competition, to any sport I’ve ever played. I always want to win, to be the best. I’ve never thought of it as “the best female...” it’s always just been “I want to be the best.” I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to grow up in a household environment that my parents and siblings created, that there was no discrepancy. They let me and encouraged me to do anything my brothers did. They put me on boy’s ice hockey and soccer teams so I could play with the best and try to be one of the best. I know how lucky I was to have that, because not all females do. So now, years later, I always want and try to encourage young females to think the same. There is no difference; anyone should try to be the best in the world at whatever their talent or dream is.”

Sarah Piampiano

“The thing that inspires me more than anything is the way that women are constantly pushing boundaries and breaking barriers. Several years ago the nine-hour barrier was a rare event, and running under three hours in the marathon was something we saw with an athlete or two.  And now, suddenly, we've had these group of women step up and make the decision that if they want to win, then we have to go under nine hours and break three hours in the marathon.  And suddenly, it is commonplace.  8:40 and 2:50 are the new standards - it is amazing.  Women pushing other women to better, and closing the gap to the top men.  It doesn't get much better than that.”

Sarah Max

“What gives me stoke? A contact list full of strong, adventurous women who are making an impact in their communities, careers and families –– but still find time to get dirt on their teeth. The word "possibility" is my battle cry.”

Rachel McBride

“No win, course record, or result is better than the feeling of toeing a start line as the fully-expressed human that I am. As a nonbinary-identified person, I hope that my journey inspires women, girls, and folks of all genders to break the mold, to unapologetically be your true self, and to tackle every obstacle with confidence, compassion, and strength.”

One of Arcila's drawings

Brittany Arcila, Wattie Ink. Artist

“I vaguely remember seeing Star Wars for the first time as a kid, but what I remember the most was seeing Princess Leia for the first time, how she was tough, got shit done, was fearless, fought for what was right and was loyal to her loved ones. It made me want to be just like that as I got older. Although she’s a fictional character, we should strive to do better for ourselves and for our future. We have a voice and that voice can make a difference."

Amy VanTassel

“When I think of women breaking boundaries in sport, I imagine the very first ones who dared to defy societal norms, like Kathrine Switzer illicitly sneaking onto the Boston Marathon course. Women have overcome immeasurable hurdles in all sports, including triathlon, which is why we should look to International Women’s Day not only as a reminder of how far we’ve come, but also as a prompt to continue to inspire girls to be athletic pioneers.”

Laura Siddall

"To inspire the next generation, by being a visible female role model in sport and my life, and what I've done through my career, to help build an equal playing field. We need more visible women role models in sport, to show that females can be fast, strong, skilled, athletic, sporty, fit, confident and successful in breaking down barriers and achieving goals. There is so much to gain from sport and the power of sport in life, and we need to keep being visible with this. Think big, believe big, act big, and the results will be big!”

Jen Annett

“To push the limits and see where the body and mind can take you, hopefully to the podium each time. I strive to be an inspiration for women of all ages, promoting gender equality in sport. In addition to this, encouraging others to follow their dreams, believe in themselves, and to overcome any hurdles life may throw at you."

Lauren Brandon

“There is nothing that I have come to enjoy more than training and racing with my fellow competitors and encouraging one other to not only become better athletes, but better people. I love being a part of sport and It is so inspiring to me to watch other women work hard and achieve their goals too."