Sika Henry remembers setting a objective again in 2017. It wasn’t simply any objective, although — she strived to develop into the primary Black skilled lady triathlete within the US. In Might of this 12 months, she completed third within the novice division at Problem Cancun, which certified her for a USA Triathlon elite license, which means she is formally going professional (these licenses require eligibility renewal after three years).
Going by a critical bike crash in 2019 during an Ironman competition modified her perspective on competing and in addition made her wish to go professional much more. “Nobody ever thinks it will occur to them,” Henry informed CelebrityPie. “However then it occurred to me, and I spotted how robust and resilient I used to be. I race otherwise now. I am grateful for each time, each alternative I get to race.”
Henry was a excessive jumper at Tufts College, and she or he wasn’t so eager on lengthy distance operating. Nonetheless, seeing folks’s faces as they crossed the Boston Marathon end line piqued her curiosity. And, when she units her sights on doing insert-any-target-objective-here, she’ll actually do it. “Each time I attempt one thing, I at all times wish to see how a lot I can get out of myself,” Henry said. First it was changing into an All-American within the excessive leap. She conquered that. Then, it was breaking three hours within the marathon. She conquered that. Subsequent, it was turning professional in triathlon — and with devoted coaching classes . . . properly, you recognize.
Many Black athletes have impressed Henry. There are Olympic marathoners Meb Keflezighi and the late Ted Corbitt, the previous of whom she met in 2015 upon attending a Nationwide Black Marathoners Affiliation banquet. Henry additionally met Marilyn Bevans, the first Black woman to break three hours in a marathon, and one other individual she named as her inspiration was Dominique Dawes, the primary Black lady athlete to win a person Olympic inventive gymnastics medal. “The historical past behind folks like me in a majority of these sports activities impressed me,” Henry mentioned, and that is what she needs to characterize for others.
“All of it begins typically with simply seeing any person that appears such as you.”
Henry wrote in a private essay printed on Bicycling.com that to ensure that Black communities and communities of coloration to develop into extra concerned in triathlon, there needs to be safer infrastructure and elevated entry to classes in swimming, for instance. She added in our interview that additional finical help for present grassroots efforts akin to Diversity in Aquatics and Black Kids Swim is crucial.
On a person degree, Henry is dedicated to being the perfect function mannequin she might be. For one, she does public talking engagements at faculties. “It is sharing my story. So many individuals of coloration are actually not that conscious of triathlon. And it is like, if you do not know what it’s, you possibly can’t do it,” she mentioned, including, “You recognize the saying, ‘In case you can see it, you possibly can obtain it’? Or ‘In case you see it, you might be it’? All of it begins typically with simply seeing any person that appears such as you.” Having that function mannequin — witnessing their success firsthand — can actually form your life, Henry mentioned.
Henry, too, works a full-time advertising job, and she or he has realized steadiness these duties along with her coaching schedule. Getting a sweat session in throughout her lunch and a second one in that night is what she’s used to at this level; then, she’ll do a bulk of her weekly exercise quantity — finishing 100 miles on the bike or a 20-mile run — on the weekends. It is not good, but it surely works.
By all of it, Henry nonetheless does not really feel like she’s ever had an ideal race both, and that retains her coming again for extra. “There are such a lot of little issues that I nonetheless have to work on,” she mentioned. “One thing so simple as a transition, like going from the swim to the bike or the bike to the run. There are such a lot of transferring elements, transferring items, in triathlon.” She grows stronger mentally and bodily because the years go by.
Henry’s debut race as knowledgeable triathlete more than likely will not happen till the autumn with, maybe, the Ironman 70.3 Augusta. From there, she aspires to attempt new races; she signed up for the JFK 50 highway race this November, for instance. In 2013, she began a weblog to doc her operating and triathlon journey, and after that qualifying race in Might, she penned her very last post. It is bittersweet, although she’ll be documenting her subsequent adventures as a professional athlete on social media. “I am glad to be signing off on a constructive be aware!” Henry wrote. “However earlier than I am going, let me let you know how a dream, one objective, lastly got here true.”