In triathlon, it’s common practice for your race results to be categorised according to your age group. For example, currently I am automatically ranked against other females aged between 30 and 34. Awards are usually given to the top three finishers in each age group, as well as the overall race winners.
However in the USA, there are additional race divisions known as Athena and Clydesdale which are based on the weight of the athlete. USAT rules define an Athena as a female weighing at least 165lbs and a Clydesdale as a male who weighs at least 220lbs. Race organisers determine whether their triathlon will include these categories and an athlete can choose to compete as an Athena/Clydesdale when registering.
As I have never raced in the United States, these divisions have never been something I’ve considered. I would however fall into the 165lb+ category by a few pounds, so it got me thinking about the idea of competing as an Athena if the opportunity ever arose. Typically, I tend to finish around the middle of the pack in my age group- I stand very little chance of getting a podium place. However I wonder if I would be more competitive against women of a similar weight?
Understandably, these weight divisions do cause some controversy amongst athletes. At first glance, it can appear that these categories exist to stigmatise fat athletes. However, the divisions were developed to ‘level the playing field’ so that those of a larger body size can compete amongst themselves. It’s comparable to weight classes in boxing or martial arts. The Athena and Clydesdale categories encompass tall, muscular athletes and anyone who falls outside of the typical petite triathlete build. Someone who weighs 165lbs is technically working harder than someone who weighs 125lbs- it’s more weight to carry up the hills!
I would certainly choose to race as an Athena if the option was given. I love the idea that the category is named after the goddess of wisdom and victory!
I’m proud of my body and my achievements. Triathlon has taught me to focus less on what my body looks like and more on what it can do. Over the years, I’ve lost weight and I’ve gained weight, but I’m now in a place where I’m comfortable in my body. The longer I’ve been involved with this sport, the more I notice how inclusive triathlon really is. I’ve seen all shapes and sizes finish a race, proving the point that fitness and ability have very little to do with the number on the scale. We are all built differently and different body shapes have their own strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, success in triathlon comes down to mental strength, dedication and determination.
Should there be Athena/Clydesdale categories in the UK? Would you race in a weight category if given the option?