Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Leslee A. Fisher

Committee Members

Steven N. Waller, Ashlee Anderson


Over the years, only a handful of researchers have systematically examined the experiences of female triathletes (e.g. Cronan & Scott, 2008). Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to explore adversity and the potential for growth among female Ironman competitors. By looking at empowerment, athletic potential, and growth through adversity, the goal was to gain a clearer understanding of how female athletes utilize adversity to grow into empowered athletes and achieve their athletic potential. Seven female Ironman athletes were interviewed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA); IPA is centered on exploring peoples’ lived experiences, the meaning of their experiences, and how they make sense of their experiences (Smith, 2011). Participants averaged 49.8 years of age and had been involved in triathlons for roughly 13 years. All participants self-identified as middle- to upper-class and Christian; in addition, six self-identified as Caucasian and one as Asian. Six participants were married, six had children, and one was widowed. Results revealed three main themes (a) experiences of adversity; (b) lessons learned; and (c) warrior spirit. As more women enter the Ironman world, continued discussion pertaining to what growth through adversity means as well as what empowerment means is important (Lewis & Ridge, 2005; McGannon, Curtin, Schinke, & Schweinbenz, 2012; Miller & Brown, 2005).

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