When Dr. Tekemia Dorsey retired from playing professional women’s football, she took up running and cycling as a way to stay physically and mentally sharp. Triathlon seemed like a logical conclusion—just add swimming—so Dorsey began training for her first race in 2012. Though she enjoyed the experience of race day, what really struck her was how triathlon provided so many opportunities for leadership: veteran triathletes mentored new triathletes, racers became race directors, and athletes were given opportunities to shape the sport in many ways.
“From a leadership perspective, there is so much to learn in this sport,” said Dorsey. “Not only at the age-group level, but the International level, the Olympic and Paralympic movement, and more. It is such a huge world out there, and I desired to learn more.”
Dorsey particularly saw an opportunity to use triathlon as a vehicle for building leadership skills in urban youth. She felt the training required for a triathlon could prevent and address many of the health and academic disparities found in communities of color, as well as increase opportunities for advancement for urban youth and the communities they represent. Dorsey founded the International Association of Black Triathletes (IABT) as a way to break the cycle of poverty in urban communities and develop a pathway for urban youth to discover and excel in both triathlon and life.
“Throughout life, there were people that took me under their wing and gave back,” said Dorsey. “It is my duty as a leader to reach out and to navigate life for the next generation. As a leader, I didn’t earn degrees for the sake of fame. I continue to better myself with hopes I can help better others.”
Through IABT, Dorsey has introduced hundreds of youth to triathlon while also elevating their educational and career opportunities through unique multisport-related programs and activities. In 2018, Dorsey founded the first-ever conference for youth and junior triathletes, the Youth & Junior TRI-Conference/EXPO*Event, held at Morgan State University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) campus. Youth triathletes in Dorsey’s programs have received commendations from local and state government officials for their work with underserved and underrepresented communities. Dorsey, too, has received recognition for her expertise and leadership, becoming the first African-American to be elected to the USA Triathlon Board of Directors in 2019.
Because of these achievements, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) selected Dorsey as the recipient of the 2020 Rings of Gold Award, presented annually to an individual dedicated to helping children develop their Olympic or Paralympic dreams and reach their highest athletic and personal potential.
“It seems surreal, yet exciting,” Dorsey said of the honor. “The idea of receiving the award is still sinking in, and the magnitude of its weight I am still reflecting on. When I entered this sport, I never thought or knew this award existed. I have been advocating for years the untapped possibilities of the sport for urban youth and this latest achievement continues to demonstrate such. I advocate for urban youth in the sport from underserved and underrepresented communities because that was me growing up and now this sport has allowed me to achieve the highest individual award in the Olympic/Paralympic movement. In this sport, the sky is truly the limit.”