I have not posted for a while because my husband Omar and I have been vacationing on Maui. Well it was not exactly a vacation, my husband was competing in the Xterra Off-Road Triathlon World Championship race. (The picture to the right shows us atop Haleakala just before sunset a couple of days after the race.) We had a great time, but we did notice something interesting related to diversity while we were there. As far as we could tell, there were no other African-Americans competing. Actually, we are sort of getting used to it. My husband was a collegiate swimmer at Auburn University and he says that there were probably only four or five other black men competing in division one at the time he was swimming. He is also usually one of the few African-Americans out mountain biking out on the trails at Oak Mountain our local state park.
As we traveled to his races throughout the summer, I always knew there were not many, if any, other blacks competing but we never really took time to think about why until we were on the plane ride home and we started talking to the person sitting next to us. He was traveling with a friend who was also an Xterra competitor and we sort of struck up a conversation. When he told us that it struck him as odd that there were no other African-Americans out there competing, we all began to wonder out loud.
So why is it?
One issue could be access to financial resources. Both mountain biking and swimming are expensive sports. Omar has been swimming since he was a child, in fact he swam in the same club team as Michael Phelps. He tells me that this type of training requires a significant time and financial investment. Mountain biking and road cycling are also very expensive sports where bikes cost in the thousands and shoes and other equipment are also very expensive, so perhaps money is an inhibitor.
Another, closely linked consideration could be return on investment. Few, if any, triathletes can make a living at the sport that they love. Even if you can get sponsors, the money that can be earned pales in comparison to what can be earned in revenue generating sports like basketball or football. So perhaps there is little incentive for parents to get their children involved in these kinds of sports.
We never came to any definitive conclusions, but you are welcome to share your thoughts about why there are very few blacks in the sport by commenting on this post. You can also keep track of Omar’s progress as he trains for next season at his website.