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Deb Kempe – Women in Triathlon

Deb Kempe – Women in Triathlon

Date: 08 Mar 2022
Posted: 2 years ago

International Womens Day 2022 is all about celebrating the achievements of women, raising awareness against bias and taking action for equality. It aims to help create a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. To celebrate, we asked some inspiring women in our Triathlon WA community to share why they love the sport, some of their greatest achievements and advice for women who are new to our sport.

Our next profile is Deb Kempe; coach and triathlete.

How did you get involved in Triathlon and what is your role now?
I was a late bloomer, coming to Triathlon through the Jane Fonda fitness era which saw me looking pretty good in leg warmers, but unproven in any other sport.

My friend and colleague, and now President of the Perth Triathlon Club, Karen Woods, convinced me to “just pop down” to Stadium Tri Club’s Novice Course at the start of the Tri season in 2009. That popping down began my career as a Triathlete and now as a Coach. I been able to travel the world and learned so much more than just how to Swim, Bike and Run.

I embraced the sport and all that it offered, completing every distance from Enticer to Ironman and becoming an inaugural member of Pursuit Coaching’s Blackfin Squad.

My love of Triathlon and passion as an educator led me to formalize my coaching qualifications through accreditation as a Triathlon Australia Development Coach (2015), by attending the Training Peaks University (2018) and in 2021 completing the “Woman Are Not Small Men” course conducted by Dr Stacy Sims. I was an Assistant Coach at Pursuit Coaching for 5 years, began my own bespoke coaching service and most recently have accepted a part time “Coach in Residence” role at Perth Tri Club.

What do you enjoy most about Triathlon?
I have enjoyed (athletic) success in the sport, but overwhelmingly it is not this measure of success that has brought me the greatest joy. It has been the continuous learning, the friendships forged, the opportunities I’ve been given, and the inspiration, support, and encouragement I have received in abundance from others.

Finding a tribe of females (and males) that has challenged, inspired, and supported me is at the heart of this sport. It has given me the confidence to defy the stereotypes associated with gender and to challenge the prejudices around ageing and performance. Triathlon also allowed me to process and overcome my deeply entrenched body dysmorphia and find my self confidence again.

I have laughed (so often) till I’ve cried, cried (less often) and managed to discuss everything from tyre pressure to the meaning of life for entire Zone 2 River Loops and Long Slow Distance (conversation pace) runs.

As a coach, I also get so much satisfaction from assisting others to achieve their own goals.

What is your greatest achievement in Triathlon, what are you most proud of?

Without doubt, it was coaching a group of athletes to the start line of the Busselton Ironman in 2021. Our group was a motley crew consisting of a FIFO worker who swam in a 29 degree, 18 meter pool encrusted with cicadas, a cancer survivor, a gifted athlete with 3 young boys, a supportive partner and a “big dog” job with only 8 hours a week to train, an ex-elite rugby prop with a great set of neck muscles perfect for holding aero position, an athlete with multiple complex injuries which had to be team managed and a number of other very unique trusting individuals. These people made me so proud.

In my own athletic career, some highlights include achieving third place for Australia in the 2012 Challenge Wanaka (NZ) and winning the International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) World Long Course Bronze medal in 2013. I became a World Duathlon Champion competing in Spain in the ITU World Championships and when defending that title the following year in Adelaide, gained a silver medal.

In 70.3 Ironman triathlons, I had wins in Busselton, Mandurah and was a National Age group champion at the Triathlon Championships in Geelong.

I went on to participate competitively in all road cycling disciplines, from Time Trial and Road Races in Perth and Italy to BWA’s 3 & 5 Dams and as a member of sponsored teams in the Tour of Margaret River between 2014 and 2020. In 2021, I was a member of the inaugural 4Five+ Team, where all six members aged >45, finished a solid 4th in A Division.

I hold the Australian Veteran Cycling Mockeridge Cup for Fastest Female at the National Cycling Championships, along with winning two silver medals for Australia at the UCI World Cycling Championships in 2016 (Perth) and 2018 (Italy).

In 2021, I expanded my cycling repertoire and entered SEVEN, an off-road Endurance Race held in Nannup, where I earnt a coveted Golden belt buckle. I’m heading back to Nannup this May where I hope to qualify for the UCI World Gravel Championships to be held in Italy in Sept 2022.

What is your advice for any women who are wanting to start participating in Triathlon?
Everyone has the right to set audacious goals for themselves. I understand that it can be daunting for anyone to try something new, and this is especially true for women. My advice is to dive into your suitcase of courage and do just as I did, pop down and check it out.

There are so many clubs and groups offering safe and supportive beginner, all female sessions and races, squad environments; where you will be warmly welcomed and given the skills and confidence to tackle the challenge of your first triathlon, maybe your first Ironman, to make a comeback or just to try something different!

Anything else you’d like to talk about or share for International Womens Day?
Of particular interest to me is to assist women to become or stay active throughout all stages of their life. This year, with others, I have embarked on a female health initiative, “4 FIVE PLUS Athlete Collective”. The aim being to inspire and support female athletes to maintain an active and competitive life through research and positive role models.

The website is well worth a look and is full of inspiring images of females of all ages doing fantastic things. Whilst we started as a cycling initiative and targeting women 45+, our goal is to expand our reach to females competing in all sporting pursuits at all levels.

Here’s to all the women on International Women’s Day – may you live and train with optimism and always have some feisty training buddies!