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ITU World Champs celebrates gender equity and 25 years

credit: www.karensmyers.com
credit: www.karensmyers.com

In just under three weeks the ITU World Championships get underway in Edmonton. Yesterday, August 6th marked the 25th anniversary of the very first ITU World Championships in Avignon, France. During that inaugural race, history was made on many fronts including in terms of gender equity in the sport wherein the male athletes refused to race unless the prize money was equalized among men and women.

In an interview with the ITU, Karen Smyers recalls that first race, “When we got there, the organizers announced that the men would get a bigger prize purse than the women….But the men stood up and said they would refuse to race unless there was equal prize money for the women. The organizers relented, and the ITU has maintained that principle ever since.”

In that same interview, Australia’s Miles Stewart insisted the pre-race protest was a pivotal moment for the sport. “Because it was the first official world championships it just had that bit more credibility about it, it was the one race that everyone was shooting for,” he said. “But the really important part there was that the men decided to stand up and refused to start until the women got equal prize money. And that was obviously a bit of a monumental time in history for the sport. It wasn’t just the fact it was the ITU World Championships; there was solidarity between the athletes for that equal prize money for women. And that’s where it generated from, from that one race. For such a young sport and such diversity of backgrounds to have everyone on the same page was pretty special.”

Now, 25 years later there is a similar concern being aired widely on social media to equalize professional representation across genders at the Ironman and 70.3 world championships. Currently there are 50 slots for male pros and only 35 slots for female pros at both events.

The ITU has demonstrated that gender equity is essential and many are hoping Ironman will follow suit.