News & Events

Q&A with Olympic Triathlete Susan Williams

Q&A with Olympic Triathlete Susan Williams

Jul 15 2015

We're honored to have a very special guest at the the 2015 Cook Creek TRYathlon, Susan Williams! At the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Susan became the first American to win an Olympic medal. We had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her background, the sport and her advice to new triathletes.

How did you start competing in triathlons?

When I was a grad student at CU, I swam, biked and ran for fun/fitness and then found out about the CU tri club and joined.  I did my first race right after I graduated and was hooked!

Which is your favorite leg of the race? Which do you find the most challenging?

I enjoy biking the most, even though I was a competitive swimmer from 9 years-old through college.  The run has always been the most challenging for me.

You have to be good in three sports – swimming, biking and running. Do you feel that makes triathlons tougher to excel in than in the sports by themselves?

I think it actually makes it easier.  If you are really strong in one of the sports it can make up for one where you aren't as strong and you can still do well overall.

How did it feel to be the first American to win an Olympic medal in the triathlon?

It was quite unexpected and sometimes it still seems like it was a dream :)

How has the sport evolved since the 2004 Athens Olympic Games? And since its inclusion in the Olympics at the 2000 Sydney Games?

The sport has grown exponentially since it was first in the Games in 2000.  And even thought the triathlon that takes place in the Olympic is fairly specific, all types of triathlons (Ironman, off-road, youth) have grown.

You were inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame just a few months ago. That’s quite an honor. What does that mean to you?

It was very special for me to me put in the same category of some of the sports legends.  I was thankful that other aspects of my participation in the sport were noticed other than 1 race in the Olympics.

In June your female team completed in the 3,000-mile Race Across America by bicycle from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. Was it what you thought it would be like? How tough was it? How do you stay motivated?

It was an amazing experience!  We had some big obstacles that changed our race strategy mid-race and just finishing become our mission.  I was blessed to have amazing teammates and crew that were determined to do what needed to be done to finish.  There was some amazing scenery, some adverse weather and major sleep deprivation, but riding our bikes across the country was just incredible!  Of course I still want to bike across the entire country, but my plan is to do this with my husband, only ride during the day and stop at hotels/campgrounds to sleep every night!

Do you have your eyes set on a new challenge? If so, what is it?

That is TBD.  My daughter is entering high school next month so I want to make sure I am there for her as much as possible as I know it goes quick.  But when she graduated I have one more year before my second daughter is in high school, so I'm thinking I may squeeze in another cool challenge there!

What advice would you give to newcomers to the sport? Or to someone thinking about trying a triathlon for the first time?

I would first tell them what an awesome sport it is and encourage them to give it a go.  They don't have to be a superstar athlete to enjoy what the sport has to offer and as I tell my newer athletes, a goal of finishing their first tri or perhaps getting a best time is really no different than my goal of making the Olympic team.  It is about setting the goals and doing your best each and every day to accomplish that goal.

Interested in trying your first tri, and meeting Susan in person? Sign up for the Cook Creek TRYathlon on Saturday, August 1.