Kelly Elmlinger crosses the finish line at the 2023 Para World Cup Paris, with her arm raised to salute.
Wagner Araujo/World Triathlon

Kelly Elmlinger competes at 2023 Para World Cup Paris.

It's Time to Ignite the Spark

by Victoria Brumfield

With a year to go to Paris 2024, we begin to Ignite the Spark.

We watch eagerly as our elite athletes Ignite their Spark within and begin their quest for a spot on the Paris 2024 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Triathlon Teams.

One of the things I love about our sport is that age-group athletes like you and I have a unique connection to our elite athletes. We, too, are Igniting the Spark and chasing our dreams. We’re swimming, biking and running for the love of the sport. We’re engaged in our communities. The transformative power of sport unlocks each person’s potential to challenge physical and mental limits and become our best selves.

This is Igniting the Spark.

We often refer to first-time athletes as “catching the bug,” comparing the sport to a bug bite, or worse, a parasite. I think of it more as something that lights a fire inside of us — or a spark. Over the next year and beyond, you’ll see Ignite the Spark as our rallying cry across our social media channels and marketing as we celebrate the resilience, determination, and dedication of our multisport community. From our Olympic and Paralympic athletes to our vast community of age group athletes, race directors, coaches, and clubs — we all play a role in Igniting the Spark within our communities.

At USA Triathlon, we’re focused not only on getting more people to spark the fire of potential and capacity within, but keeping that fire burning. Triathlon is a lifelong sport. The structure of training, the benefit of multi-disciplined movement, the culture of community, and the celebration of accomplishment and achievement. That’s what defines our sport, and that’s how the sport can define our lives.

To keep the fire burning, I believe we need to do three things: find community, race often, and don’t let expectation define your experience.

Recently, I have had the privilege to participate in several races, of all different formats, from short course and super-sprint to Gravel and Off-Road Nationals, to long-course races. At every event, I feel like I’m the best version of myself because I’m surrounded by like-minded individuals, all pursuing their passion and testing their limits, and doing it in a welcoming atmosphere full of celebration and support. That community buoys my spirit and keeps me coming back year after year.

I personally love anchoring my calendar with races. They keep me focused on a goal, they help keep me motivated in getting through my day-to-day training, and the experience I described above refills my love for the sport. This is why I love short-course racing so much. I can get the event day high more often than if I just have one big aspirational experience on my calendar.

Lastly, redefining expectation is also important to making multisport a lifelong identify. I participated in a mountain bike race on the Fourth of July. It started with a parade, led out by the cutest kiddos all decked out in red, white and blue bikes and helmets. But then the celebration was over and things got hard. I felt like I raced well. But for the first time in my racing experience, I was FIRST — to get cut at the time cut-off. In that moment, instead of feeling angry or disappointed, I was grateful for the experience, and it re-lit the spark to focus on better fitness when I come back to do the race next year.

We all have Ignite the Spark stories like this.

How will you Ignite the Spark in your community?

It can be by inviting a newbie to the sport. Or volunteering at your local race. Maybe this is the year to become a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. Or compete for Team USA.

However you Ignite the Spark, you help keep the flame burning in our wonderful multisport community.