Behind every World Championship competitor lies the story that led them to the starting line. This series serves to share the stories, messages, and motivations of those set to compete in the biggest race of them all when the XTERRA World Championship returns to the Dolomite mountains in Trentino, Italy this September.
In 2017, Suzanne Kok began her triathlon journey in the Netherlands. Little did she know that this sport would power her to back-to-back appearances at the XTERRA World Championship in Molveno, Italy.
Suzanne explains, “I discovered triathlon quite late, but I found the combination of three sports really amazing. I wanted to pursue it further. But now I'm not 25 years old anymore, and I'm a mother of three daughters, but the competitive spirit still burns within me."
For five years, Suzanne participated in at XTERRA Netherlands in Ameland alongside her partner, Thijs, who is also a triathlete. The allure of the event, set in one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands with a swimming course in the Wadden Sea, kept drawing her back. In 2021, her dedication paid off when she secured a stunning 1st place in her age group (F45-49). The moment she discovered she had earned a slot for the XTERRA World Championship, she was elated.
"I'm a mother of three daughters, but the competitive spirit still burns within me."
Italy's Trentino region, with its majestic backdrop of the Alps, proved to be an enticing contest. Suzanne embraced the inaugural event in this new location and set her sights on Molveno, She adds, “Trentino is also a beautiful challenge, and I love the Alps! My family came with me, and Thijs helped me with the preparation while my daughters were there to cheer me on. It was an incredible, exhausting experience, and despite the bad weather in the days leading up to the race and the challenging muddy course, I managed to reach the finish line!"
This year, Suzanne faced a gruelling European Championship in Belgium with fierce competition placing her in 4th place, a mere 7 seconds behind the top spot. But perseverance and the roll-down process played in her favour, granting her another qualification for the XTERRA World Championship. She continues to hone her skills, determined to be at her peak performance for this year's race in Molveno.
As Suzanne gears up for this ultimate showdown, she wants to send a powerful message,”'It's never too late to take on athletic challenges.”
Her story stands as a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit and the unwavering pursuit of one's passion, no matter the age or circumstances.
The triathlon is where grit meets glory and it’s from the dirt and dust where Hunter Ralston emerges as a fierce contender hailing from the USA. Her journey to the XTERRA World Championship in Italy is a tale etched in family bonds by emerging triumphantly from the sidelines.
"In 2015, I went to Hawaii to watch my brother compete at Worlds. At that time I had never qualified for a World Championship and thought that was never going to be something for me. Fast forward, and here I am in 2023 heading to my first XTERRA World Championships!"
Every trail has a starting point. For Hunter, it was the trails her brother forged in her memory. The spark ignited with a sibling bond solidified through races and relentless training. "My brother and I are the best of friends. Now, I am following in his footsteps as an XTERRA Worlds qualifier."
The mission for Molveno glory began at XTERRA New Jersey in 2023. Race day emerged with chilly waters and a spirit of challenge. Hunter tackled the unknown with tenacity, her bike handling skills and unyielding force pushed her to unexpected heights. "The bike is my happy place and I felt I had a strong ride. Overall, I was shocked with my result.” She continues, "This event was meant to be a fun one day ordeal. After some thought, I figured why the heck not. Let's go to Italy!"
"I always want to aspire to be the young woman that juggles it all. Consistency, dedication, and grit got me here and it can get you here too."
Hunter had to settle into the notion that she not only belonged here – she thrived in it. "Moving up to the 30-34 age group this year, I expected to get it handed to me each race, but so far that has not been the case.”
Hunter's fire for the World Championship is accompanied by her thrill of community building as she states, "I am excited for my first international race. I am excited to meet folks from around the world."
The journey is more than personal triumph; it's a beacon for those who dare to dream. "I always want to aspire to be the young woman that juggles it all. Consistency, dedication, and grit got me here and it can get you here too."
From the sidelines to the world stage, Hunter's journey resonates with everyone who takes that first step into the unknown, who embraces the chaos of the trails and emerges stronger on the other side.
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