Triathlon participation demographics have always skewed heavily toward men and, though the number of women who compete in triathlons has increased, the participation rate in triathlon events remains lower for women compared to men. To help more women get to the start—and finish line—of triathlons this year by upping their swim game, the Canadian company behind the world’s first augmented reality swimming goggles, FORM, is giving away 100 pairs of free swimming goggles, each with a year of premium features (such as in-goggle guided workouts and coach-designed training plans) to anyone who identifies as a woman and is registered for an Olympic or Long Distance (100km or longer) Triathlon in 2023. Interested parties can provide proof of triathlon registration through this survey. We chatted with Bronwyn Davies, a Canadian triathlete and member of the FORM community, to learn more. —Noa Nichol
Hi Bronwyn! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
I’m a recreational triathlete based in Vancouver, BC, who has been sweating for five years doing triathlons. More recently, I worked my way up to Ironman competitions in 2022, including Ironman Canada, where I placed 8th in my division. Professionally, I’m a film director who loves telling female-driven stories. My most recent documentary, Benched, about motherhood and professional cycling has been accepted into ten festivals and tours worldwide.
Triathlon participation demographics have always skewed heavily toward men; why do you think that is and, as a woman, what has your experience been like competing in endurance sports?
It’s no secret that there is male dominance in triathlon. Yes, we race the same distance and the prize money is equal, but there is still a bias in media coverage, sponsorship contracts, the way races are set up, and policies, and it will take a long time to change. There’s also generally a lot of prejudice towards what a ‘triathlete’ looks like, and that’s a huge barrier for people who perhaps can’t see themselves in the sport to begin with. However, what’s truly cool and unique about triathlon is that the men and women race together. I’m right there alongside every other person, and despite all of our differences we’re gruelling it out together toward the finish line. This has lent itself to many unique and unforgettable experiences – for example, I have never felt as much support and love from women as I did on the Ironman Canada course. The women were rare, so there was always a quick chat on the bike or a high-five on the run at every opportunity. It was so fun and it felt like I made a community out there. On the flip side, during a different race, I had a man joke to his friend and exclaim: “Oh no, the girls are passing us” on a particularly steep climb as I went by. As a collective, I would love to move past the idea that men should feel embarrassed by being passed by a girl.
What are some of the skills and aptitudes needed to compete in physically and mentally gruelling triathlons?
Mentally, my mantra for all my races is ‘I can do hard things’. It’s not groundbreaking or particularly creative, but it gets me across the finish line every time. I won’t lie, they can be really tough endurance races. But when are the easy things the best in life? Physically, I constantly remind myself that I don’t need to be a perfect triathlete. You don’t need to be tough as nails and train nine times a week to do this sport. Life is messy and unpredictable, and sometimes that looks like cutting a workout short or missing one altogether. I have learned not to beat myself up when things don’t go according to plan and to appreciate just showing up in any capacity.
How do you see gender parity in the triathlon community growing?
The barriers to triathlon are (generally speaking) time, finances, accessibility and confidence. Women are not a singular group, so one solution will not work for everyone, but if we can create a pathway that impacts at least one (if not all) of these obstacles, we’ll be moving in the right direction. Policies that promote and champion women’s equality, while recognizing their social reality, will create the opportunity to draw a greater number and variety of women to the sport. There has also been a lot more research into how women respond to endurance sports, which helps women themselves understand how they respond to training differently from men. The more women know how to approach sports like triathlon and feel confident doing so, the less likely it is to be seen as a big scary sport.
What can we do to help more women get to the start (and finish line) of triathlons this year?
We need to see the lack of women on the start line as an amazing opportunity and not the status quo because that’s the way it’s always been. Providing an equal amount of slots for racing is huge. We need to give women the opportunity to show up, rather than assuming they won’t. The unequal number of women participating at a Championship level reinforces the idea that women don’t deserve equal representation. It fails to take into account the various historic, systemic and cultural structures that keep women out of sport. It also all comes back to the media leading the way – if they show an interest in women first then the sponsors and public interest will follow. In my own community I also strongly believe in the ‘pass it on’ mentality. Support from like-minded women can only help guide them through all the elements involved in taking part. After I did my first race, all of my subsequent races were about helping someone else do their first race and encouraging them that they can ‘tri’ it!
How can a tool like FORM, the world’s first augmented reality swimming goggles, help?
Swimming is typically the hardest leg of triathlons for athletes (guilty as charged!). It’s both physically and mentally challenging but having a tool like the FORM Smart Swim Goggles really helps my engagement, motivation, and enjoyment in the water. These goggles literally transformed how I felt about swimming – not to mention skyrocketing my performance. Before FORM, I didn’t know the first thing about training in the pool, so I especially love the coach-designed workouts and training plans. I think it’s an amazing tool for women to improve their skills and confidence in the water.
We hear FORM is giving away 100 pairs of Smart Swim Goggles and a year of premium features (such as in-goggle guided workouts and coach-designed training plans) to anyone who identifies as a woman and is registered for an Olympic or Long Distance (100km or longer) Triathlon in 2023. Why, in your opinion, should people “dive in” on this opportunity?”
This opportunity from FORM gives women the ability to take their athletic goals one step further. Training with FORM elevates your training sessions and helps you become a better swimmer with coach-designed workouts, training plans, and real-time feedback—at a glance in your smart goggles. I can honestly say that I would still be swimming laps aimlessly and not improving without them. So whether you’re a once-a-year triathlete or a lifestyle triathlete, this is an incredible opportunity for women to take their training to the next level and crush their triathlons in 2023.