This article originally appeared on Triathlete
USA Triathlon has a new leader – and it’s a familiar face. Victoria Brumfield, who has served as interim CEO of USA Triathlon since early September, has been named the organization’s first female CEO in its more than 40-year history.
Prior to her appointment as interim CEO, Brumfield served as Chief of Staff and Chief Business Development Officer for USA Triathlon, where she earned a reputation as an innovative and results-oriented leader for the sport and organization. Her vision and leadership guided the development and execution of USA Triathlon’s recent strategic plan, Elevate 2028, which charts the organization’s path through the LA 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Brumfield has been in the endurance sports industry for nearly 20 years in a variety of roles that have given her both a broad understanding of the business of sport and the opportunity to grow and inspire triathlon communities by serving as a founding member of Virgin Sport, a Branch of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, as well as serving as Event Director for the New York City Triathlon, the IRONMAN US Championship, the 2003 ITU World Cup in New York City, the 2005 ITU Age Group World Championships in Hawaii and the 2004 Triathlon Triathlon trials in the USA, among others.
We sat down with USAT’s new leader to talk about the job, the work ahead, and what it means to be the first woman at the helm.
triathlete: Congratulations on being named CEO of USAT! You have been with this organization for a long time and have served in the role of CEO on an interim basis since the departure of Rocky Harris. What really solidified you about this experience, yes you wanted this position?
Victoria Brumfield: When Rocky first announced that he was leaving USA Triathlon to take up a position with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, I knew I was ready to take on the interim role. While I was confident that I was also the right person to take the organization forward over the long term, leading the organization as interim CEO while going through the global search process made me think deeply about why I wanted to be the next leader. Why I felt I was the right person at this point to lead this organization, what the future would be like under my leadership, and most importantly, how I would be as a leader for our people and the broader multisport community and sport.
The last 3+ months have challenged me in many ways and pushed me beyond any preconceived boundaries. In that sense, it was very much like training and competing in a triathlon – discovering new parts of yourself, connecting to the world and people around you in new ways, and ultimately bringing out a better version of your former self. In triathlon we often compare the ups and downs of life to our sport and not only have I lived that recently, I have loved every moment of it.
You are the first female CEO in USAT history – what does that mean to you and what meaning should it have for the sport?
Women have long been at the forefront of the triathlon business, from Diana Bertsch, the IRONMAN World Championships race director, to the pioneers of USA triathlon when it was still called Tri-Fed, like Sal Edwards, Valerie Silk and Lyn Brooks. However, women are still underrepresented in our sport, both in participation and in leadership positions. When I came to USA Triathlon, I was the first female leader. I have taken this opportunity to promote more female leaders in our organization at all levels, including our leadership team. I do not take it lightly to be the first female CEO in the history of our organization – I want to continue to use my platform to encourage, inspire and empower young women and current female professionals to pursue their career aspirations and reach. But I also look forward to the day when being a CEO is no longer a headline but the norm.
Who are your role models or examples of the kind of leader you want to be?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked for inspirational leaders who demonstrate the qualities I admire most in leaders: vision, ambition and a passion for bringing the joy of endurance sports and entertainment to the masses. My role models are my former bosses John Korff, Mary Wittenberg, Kimo Seymour and Rocky Harris. I’m also inspired by the entrepreneurs in endurance sports who align their personal and professional lives to create events that make the sport possible. Triathlon work is tough – 2am wake-up calls on Saturday mornings are the norm. I admire every race director and their teams who sacrifice their sleep and weekends just to see the joy on people’s faces as they have medals hung around their necks at the finish lines across the country.
Triathlon has evolved a lot over the years and you’ve been working on the business side of this sport since 2001. How does the sport’s past inform you as you guide it into the future?
When I first got involved with triathlon at the very first NYC Triathlon in 2001, the sport was just beginning to explode. The first triathlon competition at the Olympic Games had just taken place in Sydney and over the next decade the sport thrived. In every big market there were big city races. Professional athletes could make a living from sponsorship money and prize money from short-distance races. The ecosystem of races, coaches and clubs has been very vibrant for both business owners and athletes. I believe we can take advantage of the rowdy, aspiring mentality of the past and also help our sport get back to what really contributed so much to that aforementioned growth – a collaborative spirit and a all-ships-lift mentality.
At the end of the day, we are all in this together, and when one of us is successful, we all reap the benefits. Looking to the future, and to maintain the boat analogies, we have the wind at our backs right now. We are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic which has shown us the resilience of this community and this sport and as with all things it helps you realize how much you appreciate it when something is taken from you. We can look back on these past few years and draw on that experience, knowing that together we can weather whatever comes our way.
You have a lot of work ahead of you! What’s at the top of your to-do list as CEO?
USA Triathlon has always existed with the sole purpose of supporting, growing and enhancing the sport of triathlon and multisport in the United States. My top priority is directing all of our energies and resources towards growth, service and value to our constituents and members.
What kind of changes can triathletes expect to see in the organization with you at the helm? What can we expect it to stay the same?
We will continue to support race directors, coaches, clubs, officials and athletes – this is our top priority. We exist to serve the sport and we will never deviate from that. We will continue to be transparent and proactive in our communications, seeking feedback from the multisport community and making changes and adjustments where warranted and appropriate.
Expect an increased emphasis on draft-legal junior races and our high-performance development pipeline. We’re six short years away from LA 2028, and now is the time to ensure America succeeds on our home soil. Rocky has been at the forefront of professionalizing our elite paratriathlon program and making it equal to our elite triathlon program. This included everything from prize money and annual stipends to nomenclature and promotions/coverage. We will continue what he started and further integrate our elite paratriathlon and elite triathlon programs, including joint training and joint training services. These athletes are so incredible and we look forward to both groups pushing each other to get better every day.
When you think about the future of triathlon, what are you most looking forward to?
The advancement of the various disciplines and distances. We are only limited by our imagination. The super sprint triathlon time trial event and age group mixed relay events we hosted earlier this year in Irving, Texas at the USA Triathlon Multisport National Championships Festival were some of the funnest anyone has had in our sport and I can’t wait to see more of that energy and enthusiasm.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the future of our sport – our young and aspiring athletes. This ranges from the young kids competing in local splash and dash events, to our juniors on the draft-legal circuits, to NCAA sophomores and college club athletes, to our younger elite athletes competing in Americas Triathlon – and World Triathlon races are making waves. They are young and fast and ambitious and will be fun to watch for years to come. We see investment in esports around the world from organizations like IRONMAN, CLASH, Super League and PTO and from members of our community investing in their own races and businesses and from individuals making philanthropic donations at a high level. This influx of interest and support is vital as we continue to grow the sport. And of course Paris 2024 is only about 18 months away and LA 2028 is only six years away. How can you not get excited about racing on the biggest and brightest stage in the world?
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