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2020’s Multisport Movers and Shakers: Vanessa Foerster

Vanessa Foerster is taking action in getting more diversity in the sport.

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After a very weird 2020, we’re (finally) now headed into 2021—but there are still a lot of questions left unanswered, in the world and in our sport. Who will help shape triathlon? Who are the people working in front of and behind the scenes to do exciting, new, or interesting things? Who should you keep your eye on in the next multisport year?

We racked our brains, scoured the tri-space, and came up with this varied list of multisport movers and shakers—all of whom we’re looking forward to watching in 2021. We can’t wait to see what they do and how they change the sport in the year ahead. We’ve been revealing one person at a time, but Active Pass members can view the entire list right now. Today we’re highlighting Vanessa Foerster, the founder of the Diversify Triathlon Movement.

Vanessa Foerster

34 | Bozeman, Montana
Founder of the Diversify Triathlon Movement

Since she picked up triathlon 10 years ago, Vanessa Foerster has raced every single year “and loved every part of it.” But one thing she noticed on every start line was how few other Black women there were. And then she did Ironman Chattanooga in 2019, and she saw a huge increase in the diversity of athletes from the year before. It made her think. “It’s not that BIPOC athletes aren’t interested in triathlon,” she said—so where are they?

As racial injustice came into the national spotlight this summer, Foerster kept thinking about what she could actually do—instead of just waiting for someone else to do something. As a mental endurance coach, she coaches a lot of athletes who want to qualify for Kona. “I know people. I know clubs and athletes,” she said. She thought about all the people and clubs and coaches she knows, and she thought about the barriers to entry and how to simply and concretely eliminate the ones she could.

That’s when she posted on Instagram: “I have an idea.” And the Diversify Triathlon Movement (DTM) was started.

The idea was relatively small. She just wanted to connect 30 new BIPOC athletes with coaches and get them support through their first race. The response, though, was overwhelming—from coaches, athletes, people wanting to help. “It really took off from there,” she said. She ended up signing up 50 athletes and 25 coaches for the first DTM class. Those athletes raised money for FundHerTri, participated in an ad campaign, and completed their first virtual race. And Foerster thinks many them of them will stick with the sport and keep at it.

With companies and organizations lining up to provide gear and take care of race registration fees for the athletes, she expects it to grow now—likely two more classes of new and experienced BIPOC athletes, and then go from there. Those 50 athletes might inspire 50 more, who then see other people like them, she said, and it creates a ripple effect. It might start small, but then it becomes big.

“You have to be the drop,” she said. “There have to be drops in the bucket to fill the bucket.” 

Related for Active Pass Members: The Complete List of 2020’s Multisport Movers and Shakers