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Meet elite British female Ironman Rachel Joyce

As Rachel Joyce targets one final push for Ironman World Championship glory in Kona, we meet the British lawyer-turned-elite racer gunning for gender equality and pro rights in triathlon…

 just comes on when it’s race time.”

Former pro star Julie Dibens has been in charge of overseeing Joyce’s training programme since late 2014, following the end of Rachel’s coaching relationship with Hawaii legend Dave Scott, which had run its course afteran unhappy third place at Hawaii in 2014 for Joyce (“the only Hawaii I didn’t enjoy,” she adds). Dibens has seemingly put the fun back into tri for Joyce.

“I got to a point in my career where I got on well with Dave but I was ready for a switch to someone with slightly more communication like Julie. She has a squad that makes a big difference to training. Previously, I did a lot of training on my own and I certainly felt I was ready to move away from that. Now I have a lot more squad swims; we do indoor rides together, we do outdoor rides together; we do group runs together. It brings a new element of fun into things.”

Part of that squad is Brit veteran Tim Don who, at six months older than Joyce, is also gearing up for arguably his terminal try at Hawaii glory. “Tim’s a big help for motivation, especially when we plan training camps with the same goal of Kona. He’s been in this sport so long and he’s so good at creating camaraderie, especially when we’re tired when the training gets tough.”

TEAM BRAVO

Don, the former ITU world champ who finished 15th on debut in Hawaii last year, is also a partner of Joyce in Team Bravo, the Coca-Cola sponsored Brazilian-based tri team launched in early 2015. Being high profile members of Team Bravo has witnessed Joyce and, especially, Don adopt a Latin American-heavy race schedule. So what is the modus operandi of the outfit?

“The big aim is to grow triathlon in Brazil,” states Joyce. “There are five Brazilian athletes and the idea is, by supporting them, they can race more and have more Brazilians racing in Kona. Culturally Brazil is very different to the US and the UK, just in terms of eating and what time we go to bed. Myself and Tim were able to impart very simple information like that on various training camps, as it’s all about training and recovering. We want to have a good presence at the Brazilian races and connect more to grassroot athletes and to more children. Via Team Bravo, Coca-Cola has helped by saying having an active lifestyle is really important to long-term health, so they want us to communicate that message to the Brazilian market.”

For all its clever PR, Coca-Cola is still a brand famous for the sky high sugar in its drinks, and its union-fighting controversies in Columbia are a dark chapter in the brand’s Latin history. So did Joyce, who was born in Mexico City due to her father’s work (before growing up in Woodbridge, Suffolk), have misgivings about signing up to the Coke-backed Team Bravo?

“You know, I really had to think about Coca-Cola. But there are different ways of looking at it. I know soft drinks are unhealthy, but when we met with Coca-Cola, they were aware that the mood is changing and that’s why they wanted to invest in an active lifestyle. When you see that a company is creating initiatives to help the health of that nation and educate, that’s surely a good thing, right? Drinking Coca-Cola has to be part of an active lifestyle, and having a non-endemic brand of that size coming into the sport is a massive thing for tri. In magazines, you see bike and wetsuit companies… but having Coca-Cola sponsor a team will lead to other big non-core sponsors coming in.”

SPORT EQUALITY

A year ago, Joyce co-founded TriEqual and propelled the #50WomentoKona campaign into the tri consciousness. While triathlon often leads the way in gender equality – unlike tennis, men and women complete the same event format; in comparison to golf, the prize money is evenly split – both the Ironman and 70.3 World Champs only offer 35 pro female slots, instead of the 50 given to men. It’s a fact previously overlooked or unreported on by many (including us), but is now a burning topic of tri. So will Joyce’s final Kona dance be alongside 49 other professional female athletes?

“Progress hasn’t been as quick as I’d have liked,” admits Joyce. “I’d like there to be equal numbers in 2016 but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. It’d be easy to say that TriEqual has failed but we’re very much working together and still want 50 women in Kona. [Ironman CEO] Andrew Messick said he’s not giving equal numbers because he’s protecting the women’s race; he believes that if there were equal numbers, it’d be detrimental to the quality of the race and representation in Kona. Which is patronising because we’re all grown women. I don’t think 

Continue reading our interview with Rachel Joyce (3/3)


 
 

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