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11 most influential women in triathlon history

As we prepare to celebrate international women's day, we look at 11 women who truly made a difference in our sport.

Triathlon would be where it is today without the influence of these 11 incredible women.

Paula Newby-Fraser

The “Queen of Kona” won the Ironman World Championship eight times, won 24 Ironman races in total, and has been lauded by various media outlets as one of the greatest endurance athletes of all time – Sports Illustrated named her one of the top 60 athletes of the 20th century. She remains a mainstay in the sport, working with Ironman in a variety of roles including as a pro athlete liason, coach and commentator.

Julie Moss

The dramatic coverage of Moss crawling across the finish line in 1982 at the Ironman World Championship on ABC’s Wide World of Sports mesmerized a nation and served as the dramatic inspiration for many to get into the sport.


Moss also remains a mainstay in the sport as an ambassador for Ironman.

Lyn Lemaire

Without Lyn Lemaire there wouldn’t be a Paula Newby-Fraser or a Julie Moss. In 1979, the second year of the Ironman World Championship, Lemaire became the first woman to finish the event that put the sport on the map. That year she finished fifth overall in 12:55:38.

Judy Collins

The Ironman event was conceived by Collins and her husband, Commander John Collins. Both Judy and John competed in what many believe was the first triathlon event in San Diego in 1974 – the Mission Bay Triathlon.

Valerie Silk

Even though she was not an athlete, through chance Silk would become the guiding influence for the growth of Ironman over its first 12 years. When John Collins handed over the paperwork from the Ironman event to Silk and her husband – the pair owned a nautilus club that had been involved with the race. Silk and her husband would eventually divorce and Silk continued to run the race, eventually creating a qualifying series and helping Ironman grow in stature. She sold Ironman in 1990 to Dr. Pitt Gills, who owned the company until 2008.

Marisol Casado receives an award.

Marisol Casado

The president of the ITU since 2008, Cosado is the only female head of an international summer sport federation. She is a member of the International Olympic Committee.


Loreen Barnett

Competing in her first triathlon in 1981, Barnett was the first Canadian woman to compete at the Ironman World Championship. Her contribution to the sport wasn’t just as a trailblazing athlete, though – she was instrumental in the formation of both Triathlon Canada (which started in 1985) and eventually the ITU and remains First Vice-President with the organization.

Chrissie Wellington

Wellington burst onto the world scene with a dramatic win at the Ironman World Championship in 2007. She would go on to win four Kona titles, while her “world-best” time from Challenge Roth of 8:18:13 remains the fastest full-distance performance ever. She was undefeated in all 13 of the full-distance races she started.

Sarah Springman

An elite athlete from the UK from 1983 to 1993, Springman served as the vice-president of the ITU from 1992 to 1996. She was instrumental in getting the sport into the Olympics.

Erin Baker

A two-time winner in Kona, Baker was also the first ever ITU world champion, taking the title in Avignon in 1989. Arrested during a protest against South Africa’s rugby team competing in her home country of New Zealand, Baker was barred from competing in the United States during the early years of her career. Outspoken on behalf of equal prize money for women in the sport, it came as no surprise to any who knew her that she would eventually become a politician in New Zealand.

The Iron Nun and Lisa Bentley

Sister Madonna Buder

The oldest woman to ever finish an Ironman (Buder was 82 when she finished Ironman Canada in 2012), Buder continues to set new age standards for the sport. Her numerous features on the NBC coverage of the Ironman World Championship served as inspiration for thousands of age group athletes over the years. At 75 she was the oldest to ever finish an Ironman race, and managed that same feat seven years later. At 89, the oldest competitor in the race, Buder finisher third last year at the USA Triathlon national championships in the 85+ category.