Afghan Woman Zeinab Rezaie Makes History At IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships

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Rezaie, 27, is the first Afghan woman to race and finish the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship

As final finisher of women’s day at the 2022 Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship presented by Utah Sports Commission, Rezaie completes race in 08:28:57

ST. GEORGE, Utah (October 31, 2022) — At just 27, Zeinab Rezaie has made history in becoming the first Afghan woman to race and finish the IRONMAN® 70.3 World Championship. Zeinab was the final finisher of the women's day at the 2022 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship yesterday completing the race in a time of 08:28:57, giving her just over a minute to spare before the final cut off.

ST. GEORGE, UTAH – OCTOBER 28: General views of the 2022 Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Women’s Race presented by Utah Sports Commission on on October 27, 2022 in St. George, Utah. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Zeinab, who was born a refugee in Iran, returned to Afghanistan with her family aged nine, just two years after American troops ousted the Taliban. Despite living in a society that didn’t accept women or girls participating in sport, Zeinab was determined to stand tall in the face of adversity. She completed her first marathon in 2017 and then went on to complete a multi-stage ultramarathon across 250 km of the Mongolian Gobi Desert in 2018. In February 2020, she completed IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai and became the first Afghan woman to finish an IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon.

Yesterday, Zeinab re-wrote the history books once again and became the first Afghan woman to compete in and ultimately finish the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.

On finishing, Zeinab commented: “I did it not for myself but for the women and girls of my country who do not have the basic rights of education, work, travel, or sport. Not only was this for the women of my country but for the minorities and all the women across the world who do not have access to their basic rights.”

Zeinab was introduced to triathlon by She Can Tri founder Jackie Faye when she was studying at the American University in Kabul.

Training in Afghanistan was challenging – there are only two swimming pools in Kabul that allowed women, but they were crowded and expensive. Thanks to the She Can Tri community, Zeinab learnt to swim by attending training camps and watching YouTube videos.

Now living in the USA, Zeinab is studying for a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship but her family remains in Afghanistan.

Zeinab hopes to set an example for other Afghan women who may also be passionate about sport, but don’t know where to turn.

Talking about how triathlon has changed her life, Zeinab said: “In lots of ways, but mostly it has given me a voice to speak up about basic rights for women, such as freedom of movement, sport, education, work, and travel. Many women in my country are deprived of these things.”

Zeinab was amongst nearly 5,500 age-group athletes who are racing across Friday and Saturday in the 2022 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. She raced alongside some of the world’s best triathletes, which saw Taylor Knibb (USA) take the women’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Crown, followed by Paula Findlay (CAN), and Emma Pallant-Browne (GBR).

Zeinab completed the 1.2-mile swim course in Sand Hollow Reservoir located in Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah in 00:53:32. She then went onto race the challenging 56-mile bike course through stunning desert landscapes with 3,201 feet (1003 meters) of elevation gain and an unforgettable climb into Snow Canyon State Park and surrounding Washington County in a time of 04:11:29. Finally, she took to the 13.1-mile (21.2km) run course in the stunning Red Hills Parkway, finishing the run in 03:10:58 in historic downtown St. George for an overall time of 08:28:57.

As part of her training and racing efforts, Zeinab is attempting to raise $15,000 for She Can Tri to make sure more women and girls can follow in her footsteps. Supporters may donate to her GoFundMe campaign.

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