Sara Gross is the latest athlete and second Canadian to join Bahrain Endurance team. Having lived in the UAE with her family when she was younger, Gross feels a connection to the Middle East. With roots in Victoria, BC she races in the Americas consistently and over the past few years has racked up a number of podium finishes and wins at events like Ironman Brazil and the 2014 Ironman North American Championships. Recently, her involvement in the sport has extended into the area of gender equality, especially with regards to the current imbalance of male and female pros racing at Kona. Her work has included writing several articles on gender equality in triathlon, found on her website.
TMC: What has triathlon taught you?
SG: Triathlon has taught me to be relentless. By aggressively pursuing your goals, you eventually get there. And the path is never as planned, but is absolutely worthwhile.
This lesson had some spillover in my life this last year when TriEqual got together to create awareness about the fact that the pro women do not have the same number of spots at the Ironman World Championships as the pro men. If you want to see relentless, try pissing off a group of pro women triathletes.
How did you get your start in the sport?
When I was working on my undergrad degree at Queen’s University, I volunteered at the local triathlon – the K-Town Tri. I was tasked with signing in the elite athletes at 5 AM on race day. I remember the athletes coming to the table one by one, looking so fit, and surprisingly relaxed for race morning. Simon Whitfield was among them. Afterwards, while watching the race I thought, “this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” I signed up the next year.
I lived in Scotland for a decade and there, decided I wanted to find out how good I could be at triathlon. I was 23. I was lucky to find a great training group and a good coach quickly. All my closest friends from that time came from triathlon. I begged myself onto the Scottish National Team. Having the right people and the right opportunities in my life made me confident that I could turn pro. That, and bull-headed stubbornness.
Does any part of triathlon scare you?
I spent a long time being scared that I would never win an Ironman race. That might sound weird, but I tried to win an Ironman for 10 years. I always finished in the top 5 but didn’t win until 2014. I was 38.
What draws you to the sport?
Initially, the challenge drew me in. I idolized anyone who had even finished a triathlon, let alone won. It’s the combination of skill, fitness, mental toughness and discipline that I really enjoy on a day-to-day level.
Easily Ironman Mont Tremblant. Winning on home soil was just so special.
Who is your sports idol?
All my life I really looked up to female athletes. There were so few women in the media, especially when I was young that I can barely remember specific athletes. I just remember watching the Olympics and dreaming about going.
As I got older and became a student of history, I began to idolize some of the trail blazing women who stood up and fought for women in sport like Billy Jean King, Katherine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb. When I first started triathlon, we had some amazing Canadian women at the top of the sport to look up to like Lori Bowden, Lisa Bentley and Heather Fuhr.
Now more women athletes are in the media, but its still not enough. We need to make sure our daughters have as many heroes to choose from as our sons. I’ve been working with a Women in Sport media company called WiSP Sports. We are getting ready to launch a new website in the next month, so watch for that!