Skip to main content

YWCA Women’s Triathlon and Racial Diversity in Triathlons

By Irene Quarshie, YWCA Minneapolis Board Chair and Nicole Cueno, YWCA Women’s Triathlon Race Director
May 16, 2016
Social Share

Nicole Cueno, YWCA Women’s Triathlon Race Director, and Irene Quarshie, YWCA Minneapolis Board Chair, connected to talk about Irene’s overall experience of the race and to get her thoughts on encouraging greater racial diversity of women in the sport of triathlons.

Nicole Cueno: How would you describe the support provided prior to the Women’s Triathlon and the overall environment on race day?

Irene Quarshie: Three words: Doing is believing! I’ve always been inspired by the stories of the women who’ve participated year after year. However, it wasn’t until I finally decided to participate and actually crossed the finish line, that I fully understood the magnitude of it all. Thousands of women (and girls) training for months (or in my case, weeks) to support one another in what for some is the hardest fitness challenge of their lives. I felt nervous, anxious, and triumphant all together.

The support from YWCA Minneapolis was second to none! From the swim lessons to boot camps to practice runs, it was all amazing and made Tri completion feel achievable. Registration was simple, packet-pick up was convenient and overall communication was spot-on.

Race day was truly a sight to behold. Supportive women, staff and volunteers greeted you throughout the course. How often do you see hundreds and hundreds of naturally competitive, successful women, being so supportive…during a competition? Words cannot adequately describe the warmth felt throughout the day.

Nicole Cueno: As the board chair, how does the Women’s Triathlon help live out the mission of YWCA Minneapolis?

Irene Quarshie: Outside of the funds that are raised to help support our mission, there’s a fundamental connection between what it takes to get yourself ‘ready to compete’ on race day and empowerment. The journey builds courage and confidence, helps you gain and solidify will power and stamina, and provides an overall sense of accomplishment, togetherness and community. That, to me, is the embodiment of empowering women and girls.

Nicole Cueno: How would you characterize your experience with the Women’s Triathlon; as a first-time triathlete? As the board chair?

Irene Quarshie: It was a major highlight of my life. I decided to register with weeks to go, so my training was less than I hoped. However, I finished with my dignity intact and was so proud of myself. I was more proud of YWCA Minneapolis as I crossed the finish line, as I was met with a chorus of supportive staff, volunteers and friends. The supportive nature of the event makes it approachable and achievable. I’ll be back in 2016, but this time with a little more training.

Nicole Cueno: How does the Women’s Triathlon attract diverse women? How can we do a better job of attracting diverse women to the sport?

Irene Quarshie: Certainly this is an area where there’s more concerted work to be done. We have a decent start, but the opportunity to engage diverse communities in the race is immense.

In response to a desire to connect with each other, YWCA Minneapolis is offering a Google email group explicitly for women of color training for the Women’s Triathlon this year. We want to begin a dialogue on triathlon participation, but also nurture a deeper conversation about healthy lifestyles and the health and wellness of racially diverse communities.

The importance of diversity within YWCA Minneapolis is demonstrated through its programming, and by its diverse staff and Board of Directors. YWCA Minneapolis’ Racial Justice Programs engage, connect and lead the community in eliminating racism through community events, workshops and trainings that empowered 7,200 diverse individuals to take action to eliminate racism in 2014-2015.

For more information about the women of color Google email group, scholarships, or to engage in this dialogue, please contact race management at Please join us on Sunday, August 14 at Lake Nokomis. Registration is open now.