swimmers swimmers The swimmers in this triathlon get to swim in the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo: Courtesy)

Daughter's tragic death inspired a mom to empower women through sports

Susie Dvoskin's annual triathlon has 'had an amazing influence on women in many, many ways.'

Los Angeles-born teacher Susie Dvoskin raised an athletic family. She, her husband, Danny, and their children ran, swam and rode bikes in their hometown of Ra’anana, a town near the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

Her daughter, Tamar, heard about a triathlon for women in 1994 – the first Israel Women's Triathlon – and convinced her mom to compete with her. After only a month of training, the two women competed against 53 other women.

“We crossed the finish line,” remembered Susie Dvoskin. “We dared to do something we’d never done before.”

Tamar riding bikeSusie Dvoskin's daughter, Tamar, was an especially giving person. (Photo: Susie Dvoskin)

The whole family joined in on the triathlon trend and started competing at various events. At age 47, Susie even came in first in her age group – a triumph only slightly diminished by the fact that she was the only woman in her age group

“The joy and the energy of winning is just so tremendous that it’s addictive,” Susie Dvoskin told From the Grapevine.

Then the unthinkable happened. In 1996, while 21-year-old Tamar was riding her bike down the street, an erratic driver hit her. Tamar died; the car drove away.

The Dvoskins were devastated, and they looked for a silver lining amid the loss. “Go for the positive,” said Susie Dvoskin. “It’s how we balance out the terrible loss.”

triathlonThe triathlon features four distance events and a relay race. (Photo: Courtesy of Susie Dvoskin)

The triathlon organizers asked Susie if she’d like the next triathlon to be in Tamar’s honor; Susie said yes. The first event was held at Tamarim Beach in Acre, Israel. The next year, Susie and Danny took over organizing the Israel Women's Triathlon and two decades later, they're still running it. Under their leadership, the triathlon has gone from small project to major cultural event. Fifty-three women competed in 1994; more than 1,000 women competed in 2015.

“It’s something that we did together,” said Dvoskin. “Danny works, and I smile, and I get all the credit.”

Dvoskin travels the country encouraging women to join the competition, which also has events for disabled and young women.

Susie Dvoskin Susie Dvoskin competed in Israel's Maccabiah Games in 2005, where she came in second in her age group. (Photo: Courtesy)

After competing in the event, some women left business jobs to become sports trainers. Others started companies. The triathlon taught them that “they’re capable of doing something they never thought they could do,” Dvoskin told us. “It had an amazing influence on women in many, many ways.”

Take, for example, the story of a 50-year-old psychologist who competed in the short distance race. “When she finished, she said, ‘Wow, if I can do a triathlon, I can do a doctorate,'” remembered Dvoskin. Three years later, the woman called Dvoskin up to tell her that she got her doctorate. “It’s because of the women’s triathlon that she dared to do it."

In some ways, triathlons mirror the progress of women around the world, a history 70-year-old Dvoskin has witnessed personally. In 1967, an American college student named Kathy Switzer was four miles into the Boston Marathon when race organizers tried to force her out of the competition. She was pulled off the course, remembered Dvoskin, who was living in the United States at the time. But Switzer regained her footing and finished the race.

Indeed, women have come a long way in the last few decades, and so has Dvoskin. “For my 70th birthday, I decided I wanted to swim 3.2 kilometers,” said Dvoskin. “And I did it."

triathlonThe atmosphere at the triathlon is more supportive than competitive. (Photo: Courtesy of Susie Dvoskin)

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Daughter's tragic death inspired a mom to empower women through sports
Susie Dvoskin turned Israeli women on to running, biking and swimming.