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Triathletes in the News


TRIATHLETES IN THE NEWS
JOURNALIST PENS MULTISPORT MASTERPIECE
By Lindsay Wyskowski
Triathlon has proven time and time again that it is a sport for the masses. Athletes from ages 8 to 80-plus travel across the U.S. and even the world to compete in multisport events, including world champion Elizabeth Brackett.


Recognizable for her time as on-air correspondent for 25 years with “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” Brackett has quite an impressive résumé as a journalist. She’s earned a Peabody Award and an Emmy Award, and throughout her career has covered presidential campaigns, Hurricane Katrina, the Challenger shuttle disaster and the 1993 Mississippi River floods. While she still continues to work in broadcast journalism as an anchor and correspondent for WTTW, a PBS station in Chicago, Ill., she also finds time to train for triathlon, a sport she decided to try the year she turned 50.


“It just feels terrific to know that you’ve trained enough to get to the point where you can reach your goal and meet the challenge you set for yourself,” said Brackett, when asked what she feels is the best part of triathlon participation.


Brackett, who turned 69 in December, has two consecutive world titles under her belt, winning her age group at the ITU World Championships in 2009 and 2010. “It’s been very exciting and very satisfying,” she said. “When I was young I had been a springboard diver in college, and I had always wanted to make the Olympics. Almost 50 years later when I made the national team and then won a world championship, it was sort of like that long-ago dream finally came to fruition. It just took me a while.”


Sport has always played a significant role in Brackett’s life. She competed in sports while attending Indiana University and has been a first-hand witness to how much the sport scene has changed, especially for women. One story she covered while at NewsHour was the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the law that prohibited gender discrimination in educational institutions that received federal funds, opening the door for women to participate in sports at the high school and collegiate level.


“It was my story, too,” Brackett said. “It just sort of showed the journey that women in sports have made, and that’s been part of my participation in triathlon, too.”


Many women hadn’t been considered student athletes before Title IX was passed in 1972, leaving them out of contention for scholarships. Their coaches often went without pay to coach them. Despite the odds, the efforts of these women didn’t go unnoticed. In 1997, Brackett and 90 other women returned to IU to receive a varsity letter for their participation.


“When I first started competing in athletics in college, I could not compete for the university because there were no women’s sports available, and certainly triathlon wasn’t in the Olympics either,” Brackett said. “By the time I finally got around to making a national team, the sports scene for women had changed dramatically.”


Though Brackett has met her fair share of folks through her reporting career, triathlon is another way to go global. Competing in triathlon has also allowed Brackett to meet other athletes from around the world and build relationships and friendships, something she says is the one of the most exciting parts of competing in a world championship.


“You find out that no matter where people are from or even what age group they’re in, we’re all going through the same process and we all understand each other,” Brackett said. “When we’re standing in line to rack up our bikes the day before the race, everybody’s just as nervous as the person next to them, and it’s kind of fun to find that out.”


While Brackett is still undecided on making the trip to Beijing, China, with Team USA to defend her world title in September 2011, she is definitely thinking seriously about it. She is quick to give credit for her triathlon successes to her coach, Sharone Aharon. “He really has been critical to my getting serious about triathlon and taking it to the national and international level,” Brackett said. “He’s the one that made me believe I could do it and gave me the training programs to make me competitive.”


One thing is for certain — Brackett truly enjoys her work, and her enthusiasm for journalism and triathlon is here to stay. Whether it’s the beginner triathlete or an aspiring journalist looking to follow in her footsteps, Brackett would offer the same advice: “Set your goals, assess your abilities and go to work.”


Lindsay Wyskowski is the content coordinator at USA Triathlon.


USATRIATHLON.ORG USA TRIATHLON 27

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