By Jasmin Welter
So, with the Olympics in full swing, I was thinking of my 8-year-old self glued to the TV watching all sorts of disciplines. Of course I told my parents that one day, I was going to become an Olympic athlete. While my track & field results were promising, I decided at the mature age of 10 that my life was going to revolve around a basketball more than anything. My non-intimidating height of 4”11’ didn’t concern me at the time, neither did my location - a rural town in the middle of Western Germany. And while I did end up playing basketball and made it to competing in the German championship, I was certainly never close to playing internationally.
For years, the thought of competitive sports got completely buried under all things life - going college, traveling, exploring cities, doing research for my Master’s, and eventually finding a job. Which is how I ended up in Chicago four years ago. While I ran occasionally and still played pick-up games on a semi-regular basis, sports certainly didn’t play a big role in my life. Until that moment I was introduced to the wonderful world of cycling. While I did bike commute to work before, cycling as an actual sport was opened up to me by a certain gentleman that impressed me with more than just his passion for bikes at the time. However the introduction to the local cycling community reignited an entirely forgotten competitive spark in me. Pretty much immediately I tried gravel racing, cyclocross, road racing, mountain biking and track racing - but it was triathlons that really stole my heart. After I took my courage together and went to the first Chicago Tri Club meeting, I was overwhelmed by the positivity and encouragement this welcoming community exuded. All of a sudden, getting into a pool, jumping on a bike, and switching into my running shoes after didn’t seem as intimidating anymore. It took many attempts, a lot of courage, and a huge chunk of my time to get comfortable to swim in the open water and push hard on the bike - all while knowing that I still had to finish with a run, and I wanted to finish strong. So hours of training time, clinics, and discussions with fellow triathletes later, I was ready to start my first season as a newbie triathlete. After I had gotten myself into the sport head over heels, I was lucky enough to qualify for USAT Nationals in my first season. What a fabulous feeling! Even better, at the race I qualified for Team USA and the 2015 AG World Championship. As luck would have it, the 2015 Grand Finale of the ITU Triathlon Series was to be held in Chicago. It was only a little later that a slight problem occurred to me - I am not an American citizen. I already saw my dreams of an international competition on home turf crumble, but then I reached out to the German Triathlon Union who allowed me to get my ticket with the German National Team based on my race results - what a relief!
While I ended up being sidelined by injury for 6 months leading up to the race, I would not want to trade that experience for anything. True, I tore my wetsuit apart a minute before race start, and true, I was penalties for being unaware of international race rules about how to position your bib number. But racing with truly competitive athletes representing the US, Australia, Mexico, Ireland, Great Britain and many more countries from all around the globe was a unique experience that made me proud and humbled me at the same time. And quite honestly, just parading down Columbus Drive with fellow athletes from around the world holding the German flag during the Opening Ceremony felt truly grand is certainly a memory I will never forget. More than anything, the time leading up to the race, the training, the sacrifices, the anticipation and the event itself were also a wonderful reminder of how it is truly never too late to make your dreams come true and to reach for higher goals. While I am taking a break from competitive triathlons this year due to injury, I am glad to have time to be a Chainlink ambassador and to explore more things cycling.
Trying a Tri