We asked for your help to find triathletes who are giving back to the sport we love for our annual Triathlete magazine cover contest. And you shared incredible stories of athletes who live the triathlife and, in the process, move multisport forward. Picking 10 finalists from the hundreds of incredible entries we received was nearly impossible. Each of these 10 athletes deserves to be on our cover—but we can only pick one. That’s why we need your help!
Read their amazing stories below (as told by those who nominated them) and then vote for your favorite. Voting closes Sunday, March 1 at 11:59 p.m. MST. Votes will be combined with editors’ picks and we’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, March 3. Please only vote one time. Email provided below is used only for authentication purposes. We will not contact you.
Voting has concluded. Check back to Triathlete.com for the announcement of the winner.
Submitted by: Scott C.
Recently widowed mom and cancer survivor competes at world off-road triathlon championship and wins the Warrior Award: This is the amazing story of our dear friend and former neighbor, Anita. She exemplifies lifting up the people you love through humor, encouragement, and inspiration.
Anita and Jason embody the mantra of living life to the fullest: outdoor enthusiasts, endurance athletes, road-trippers, and crazy entrepreneurs. Jason, her dear husband, tragically and suddenly passed away 13 months ago from a rare, unknown heart valve defect (bicuspic aortic valve) after swimming six miles a few days before. He was a well-loved English teacher at Bountiful Jr. High School in Utah. This happened the day after Anita had surgery for thyroid cancer (oncocytic follicular caricinoma, sometimes called Hurthle cell carcinoma).
Anita is an ultra-athlete herself and now a young widowed mother of four kids, ages 2-13. In an effort to keep her husband’s memories alive and document her grief journey, Anita started an Instagram account, “Racing from the Ashes.” She wanted a way her friends could follow her misadventures in solo parenting, widowhood, and triathlon training. “My world crumbled, then the rubble caught fire. I’m racing from the ashes of my life. Documenting my grief journey and my attempt at Xterra Worlds.”
Anita is one of the funniest people we know and can have you laughing and crying in the same post. She is simply amazing. She is real and raw and unfiltered, which makes you love her all the more. Anita wrote, “I was also interested in reaching out to others struggling, not only with grief, but any other challenge, to offer support and inspiration.”
Well, despite the odds and the incredible obstacles in her training, Anita placed at the Xterra Pan-Am Championships in September and qualified for the Xterra World Championship in Maui, Hawaii. The night before the race, in late October, Anita was floored when she received the 2019 Dave Desantis Xterra Warrior Award “in honor of her exemplary courage in the face of adversity.”
It would mean the world if Anita was able to share her story, her hope, her humor and her love with many more people as she passes the one-year anniversary of her husband’s passing. Thanks for taking the time to learn some of her heart-warming story.
St. Augustine, Florida
Submitted by: Jamie D.
Hollis has had a history of success in sports, not only playing collegiate soccer but then getting drafted by the MLS. He played a couple of years of semi-professional soccer before he then became a successful businessman, and in 2018 was nominated for the top 40 under 40 award in Jacksonville, Florida.
An unexpected tragedy occurred in 2017 when he experienced a VAD, which is a dissection of an artery that leads to a stroke. He quickly went from normal function to having to learn to walk then run again. He had to participate in speech and visual therapy. This all took two full years of rehabilitation to climb back into the sport of triathlon. Since coming back, he has completed three Ironmans.
In each discipline of triathlon, he has had to retrain his body to not only function properly but also learn to live with some of the side effects from the stroke. Nerve damage and vertigo are just two of the lasting symptoms. I think he is deserving to be a nominee just due to the sheer determination to return not only for himself, but to show his kids the true meaning of never giving up and coming back.
Submitted by: Philip V.
Leah was born without her left hand. In her high school years, she was a swimmer and made it to the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Trials.
Leah has always been a big dreamer. Her limitations did not stop her from going for her dreams. In 2018, she set out to do Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene. She trained by herself all year long while maintaining a job. She then placed first in her division. She now wants to share her motto of having the courage to show up and being vulnerable to a sport. Leah is also very humble and knows how to adapt to any sport.
Her current dream is to go to the Paralympics in 2024 as a paratriathlete. She would be the first disabled Asian-American paratrathlete. She has inspired many young women to join sports. Parents have called her to talk to their children with a disability. Leah works hard to show every athlete they can do it. She has volunteered as a coach to encourage kids with disabilities. She is also a stepmom and a teacher. The whole world could use an athlete like her in their life: She is a wholeheartedly authentic athlete.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Submitted by: Nat H.
Marc has done a triathlon every year for 30-plus years. He’s welcomed loads of people into the sport and guided the public health group at Intermountain Healthcare, where he is CEO, to invest in community triathlon programs. The result is Intermountain Tri. In two years, we’ve grown to 850-plus members, 50% of which are beginners. We put on loads of free weekly workouts, as well as monthly (free) instructional clinics to help people develop skills. This is largely possible because of Marc’s example and gentle guidance.
Submitted by: Brian M.
Marc is not only an exceptional athlete, he’s a genuinely inspiring leader and a terrific colleague. Recently diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer, multiple Myeloma, he is determined to compete in Ironmans even after having a bone marrow transplant. The disease he’s battling doesn’t make him special. It’s just further highlighted how driven he is to live the mission of the organization he leads (Intermountain Healthcare): to live the healthiest life possible. You couldn’t pick a better cover person.
Submitted by: Calvin R.
Marc is an absolutely incredible athlete and competitor, excellent sportsman, and leader with compassion in all aspects of his life. He is filled with unmatched drive, which he not only uses to push himself, but to motivate all those around him in a positive way. An already accomplished triathlete, he is dedicated to raising the health and well-being of all people—not only himself—through his absolutely exemplary work as the CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. Through being such a positive person and influence, he inspires me to go the extra mile and push myself beyond my comfort zone, not only in terms of exercise, but in my work and personal life. Because of all of this, he is the greatest example of what a triathlete is and can be.
Submitted by: Marisa R.
Margo is a critical part of the 1% of triathletes who are African American. She raced three Ironmans (and two marathons) in 2019. With 12 Ironman under her belt, she entered the Legacy Program. She also worked and took care of her ailing father all year. Her father passed away 20 days after she completed her 12th Ironman. She has also raced 53 marathons, including qualifying for and running in four Boston Marathons. She is a true role model to the African American community because she proves that African Americans can be successful in triathlon.
Margo has always been self-coached and is quick to step in and help beginners because she remembers what it was like to be in their shoes. She thrives on being a marathon pacer and has paced multiple races. She gets energy from helping others achieve their goals. She hopes that her lofty goals inspire others to set high goals for themselves.
Margo is a rare resource for other African American triathletes. As a member of the Black Triathletes Association, she is constantly helping others by giving advice and encouragement. She tries to help as many people as she can.
Margo has had difficulty in the swim, including one case of SIPE (swimming induced pulmonary edema) during an Ironman race. But she will not give in to the myth that African Americans can’t swim. She shows others that swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean is doable.
Margo’s smile and personality is joyous. The first time I met Margo was the day before USAT Nationals in Cleveland. She was really nervous about the swim because the water was choppy and had a current. What struck me about Margo was her warm personality and her huge, beautiful smile. She was so positive even in the face of being scared to death. She gave me the biggest, warmest hug I’ve ever received from another triathlete, and it was the first time we had met. No wonder she inspires so many others to follow her footsteps to an Ironman Legacy spot.
Submitted by: Jayme B.
Mindi has been involved in triathlon since 2008 and has been unstoppable on the course as she has competed in the sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and Ironman distances all over the U.S. and the Caribbean. But it’s what she does off the course that makes her story special.
Over the years, Mindi has served as the secretary, vice president, and president of Tri Gulf Coast, one of the largest all volunteer triathlon clubs in the country. Since 2015, she has also been serving as the chairperson for youth events, where she manages two large USAT-sanctioned annual triathlons with over 200 participants and just about as many volunteers. She and her team put on a phenomenal event for these future stars. Many of the participants come from low-income schools and Mindi has applied for many grants to ensure each school has enough equipment, including bikes for those students to practice and race on, and to cover their entry and USAT fees.
Additionally, she recently helped establish Give it Try, a nonprofit organization that provides grants and donations to like-minded youth athletes in swimming, biking, running, and multisport. She is also one of the original founders and athletes on the Sister CHAIN Triathlon Team. The team is made up of strong, competitive female triathletes across Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. She has two grown children, a few cats, two successful businesses doing custom embroidery, and is a registered dietician. Mindi is an excellent role model and incredible triathlete and triathlon advocate that deserves to be recognized for all that she does for the community.
Submitted by: Karen
My son, Noel, has overcome drug addiction while treating his mental illness. I know there have been several people that have come to this sport to overcome life challenges. Noel has had the courage to publicly share his story with many of his followers and with all he meets in the community. As you read the comments on his Instagram, you can tell he has inspired many people. Best of all, while he is growing and getting faster in the sport, he is still humble enough to take the time to listen to people, even his own 61-year-old mother, who is about to attempt her first Ironman in Tulsa, after a 35-year hiatus. I hope you consider him for you cover. He will make an excellent choice.
Submitted by: Natalie
My brother Noel is an openly gay triathlete who has completely changed his life. He went from a being out of shape and using heroin and smoking for the majority of his adolescence, to now being on track to getting his pro card in the next few years. And he has inspired so many people along the way. And he is only 25! He’s like a little local celebrity in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma and in the local triathlon scene there. His transformation in this sport and in life has given him quite the following on social media and on Instagram in particular. He uses his platform to advertise the sport and its impact on his life. He competed at Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Nice this year, when just five years ago he was in detox for the second time. This upcoming May he will compete in our hometown Ironman in Tulsa. Noel has impacted the sport by showing people anything is possible to come back from. He is open about his journey and is incredibly inspiring to myself and others. I am proud to be his twin and think his story is worth a larger audience.
Submitted by: Angel J.
Not only has Remigia (Remi) made an impact on the sport, she has also made an impact on an entire community. Remi was born with sickle cell anemia, which is a blood disease that affects the shape of her red blood cells and ultimately makes it difficult for the cells to get through small blood vessels. This disease has serious complications and conditions that have plagued her life for the past 43 years. From symptoms like difficulty breathing, fatigue, and extreme pain to complications such as serious organ and tissue damage, Remi has suffered it all with a smile on her face and an unimaginable determination to do the impossible. Through it all, she has not allowed her condition to define her or stop her from tri-ing. Despite her condition, Remi has run numerous half-marathons on each of the seven continents, including Antarctica. After this accomplishment, she transitioned to triathlons and became the president of one of the largest minority-run triathlon organizations in the D.C. area.
On Aug. 4, 2018, Remi’s passion for the sport was challenged after a near death accident. While biking with her teammates, she was hit by a car while waiting to cross a busy intersection. A commercial truck struck a car and the car flew off the road and plowed into Remi. The car and Remi flew 30 yards from the street landing in a patch of grass. Remi’s injuries included several cracked ribs, a severely wounded elbow, and a shattered tibia and fibula bone in her left leg. The accident left her with a metal rod in her leg and wheelchair bound for over four months. From the moment she was carried out of the ambulance into the hospital her tenacious and awe-inspiring spirit began to resonate with her caretakers, medical team, friends, and family. She refused to feel helpless and voraciously pursued opportunities to train while healing from her injuries. At six months she was walking with a cane, at nine months she completed the Westfield Sprint in Virginia, and she crushed the Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City just over a year after the accident. Throughout her recovery process she inspired hundreds to walk, run, swim, and move just a little bit more than yesterday. Her story personally inspired me to get back to running and I am hoping to complete my first triathlon in June. Her comeback and refusal to accept “no” gave those watching a reason to say “yes” to life, good health, and the will to live on purpose.
Los Angeles, California
Submitted by: Vineta R.
Shangrila had a horrible past—she was sexually abused for a long time as a child and was again sexually abused in her 20s. She later considered herself a living dead and was hopeless. She lost trust and hated everyone, including her loved ones. At one point, she was diagnosed with extreme depression, PTSD, and struggled with an eating disorder for 10 years. She was also abusing alcohol; she didn’t care about her life, health, finances, or safety. She used all of this to numb herself from the painful emotions and flashbacks that she wanted to escape from. That was her rock bottom.
She eventually discovered triathlon and used it as a fuel to change and move forward from her past. She trained hard, mastered it and aimed high.
Because of this, she’s become:
- Guinness World Record Holder (2015) as the fastest female to complete five iron-distance races in five consecutive days
- The first Filipino athlete (male or female) to take on an Ultraman (6.2-mile swim, 261.4-mile bike, 52.4-mile run)
- The first female Filipino to complete the Double Anvil (4.8-mile swim, 224-mi bike, 52.4 mi run)
- The first Filipino (male or female) to finish and make the world record as the fastest female in Quintuple ultra triathlon race (12-mile swim, 560-mile bike, 13.1-mile run)
- Completed eight iron-distance races in eight consecutive days in Switzerland
- Completed Uberman
- Raced Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme in Russia
- Qualified and participated in the Ultraman World Championship in Kona
She was a non-runner, non-cyclist, and non-swimmer at 24 and that’s why she is an inspiration not just to me as her wife, but also to the people surrounding her and her athletes. To help others reach their craziest dreams in endurance racing, despite struggles or challenges in life, she became a coach and left a successful career in engineering. She has already helped more than 100 athletes to achieve their goals, including me.
Submitted by: Kecia P.
In 2008, Triny was overweight and decided to regain control of her weight and life. She started exercising, fell in love with triathlon, and by spring of 2018 she had become the strongest and fittest she’d ever been. She felt she was in contention for a Kona qualification going into Ironman Boulder. Unfortunately she never got to test her strength and fitness at that event.
While out riding her bike, she was struck from behind by a driver, leaving her hospitalized with 12 fractures and a punctured lung. Triny used this tragic event to kick start the “It Could Be Me” campaign. Her mission is “to change the relationship between drivers and vulnerable users of the road by re-humanizing cyclists and creating a movement of mutual responsibility and respect to make roads safer together.” Since starting this campaign, Triny has been involved in testifying, promoting, and ultimately signing a new law in Colorado that changes the consequences for drivers involved in a crash. She wants the “It Could Be Me” campaign to bring awareness and empathy to all vulnerable users of the road. She believes that by creating a visual and giving identities to those otherwise anonymous vulnerable users, we will change the narrative around cyclists and drivers on the roads. She continues to work hard to create change not only at the state level in Colorado, but at the national level as well. Triny Willerton has used her courage and strength to turn a tragedy into an opportunity.