Each day, 30 year-old Mia Cipperoni experiences severe vertigo, disorientation, loss of sensation, and extreme fatigue.

If you ask us, the coolest thing about triathlon is that hours after the first-place finisher breaks the tape, winners are still crossing the line. Though much fanfare surrounds the jaw-dropping speed and unfathomable strength found in the professional fields, the age-groupers are the ones who quietly inspire. Need proof? Each of our cover finalist athletes exemplify the heart and soul of our sport: Everyday people doing extraordinary things. Meet our contest winner here, and then meet one of the other inspirational finalists below. 

Mia Cipperoni

Mundelein, IL

Each day, 30 year-old Mia Cipperoni experiences severe vertigo, disorientation, loss of sensation, and extreme fatigue. Yet each day, Cipperoni checks off the boxes on her training plan.

“I view this as if I have two choices: I can give in to the symptoms, or I can refuse to let them control my day and my outlook on life,” says Cipperoni. “Succumbing to the symptoms has never been, nor ever will be, an option.”

Cipperoni, who has a neurological condition known as Arnold Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia, has undergone two brain surgeries that have left her with symptoms that would have most athletes throwing in the towel. Instead, Cipperoni trained for–and completed–an Ironman triathlon.

“I will never be able to fully articulate the feeling of crossing the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin,” says Cipperoni. “Seeing my friends and family, and uncontrollably bawling as they hugged me…it’s a feeling of happiness, achievement, and accomplishment that far exceeded any emotion I ever knew existed. Any time I have a flashback to that day, my eyes instantly well as I think Wow, I can’t believe I did that. It’s a constant reminder of how strong my mind is.”

“Mia had a fierce, burning desire to reach her goal of finishing her first Ironman. She trained for 15 months and overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” says her mother, Margie, who nominated her for the 2018 Triathlete Cover Contest. “Mia did not set limits on herself. She possesses perseverance and tenacity like I’ve never witnessed before. This is what a triathlete is all about: persistence, resolve, resolution.”

“This triumph is something I will forever carry with me and it continues to keep me strong, motivated and tenacious every single day,” says Cipperoni. “I want to continue to challenge myself with different races, different distances, and tough courses. I also would love to motivate others to get out there and do that one thing they’ve always wanted to try–to always believe in yourself. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something–especially yourself.”

Meet more of our cover finalists