Bangora represents Team March as an Air Force Triathlete

  • Published
  • By Capt. Perry L. Covington
  • 452nd AMW Public Affairs

The Air Force recently selected the 2017 Air Force Triathlon Team that represented at the 2017 Armed Forces Triathlon Championship June 7-11 at Naval Base Ventura County, California this past weekend. Among those select 17 individuals, SSgt. Stephanie Bangora, 452d Force Support Squadron, was given the honor of a spot on the team. For the uninitiated, a triathlon is a 3 tiered competition which demands the completion of three grueling endurance events. There are several variations of the sport but the most widespread form involves swimming, cycling, and running in instant progression over large distances. While hundreds are considered for the Air Force team, only a small precious few are actually asked to join.

"I never really thought about being on the team.  I just loved working out and I've always wanted to do a race.  It was just one of my goals," Bangora said as she reminisced about her journey.

Bangora's rocky road to representing the Air Force started in 2013 when she signed up for a half triathlon. That race is an astounding 70.3 miles. Due to logistical issues, she was never able to compete. Not one to be dissuaded, she tried again to compete when she moved to California. As fate would have it, she broke a hip during a training a session, an injury that would prevent her from exercising for six months.  In 2015, healed and eager to compete, Bangora signed up for the Superfrog Triathlon, a race sponsored by the Navy Seals. The Superfrog is a traditional half marathon that consists of a 1.2 mile open ocean swim, a 56 mile bike course and a 13.1 mile run. The race is open to both military and civilian and those who finish first in their category automatically qualifies for the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii, the largest triathlon event in the world. Bangora finished first in her military division. Her seat to the big show secured.

After four years of exhaustive training and dedication, Bangora competed and completed the Ironman race. As most elite athletes often do, once the race was complete Bangora was on the search for the next challenge. She put in her package to be considered for the Air Force team and soon after the coach offered her one of the coveted spots.

"I spend the majority of my off time training.  I typically start my training day at 3 a.m. It's really satisfying knowing that all my efforts are finally paying off," said Bangora.

The top 6 athletes that finish in June will have the opportunity to compete at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire World Military Triathlon Championship Aug. 4-8, in Warendorf, Germany.

"I'm honored to just be a part of the team," Bangora said. "This all has been an amazing journey.  I used to struggle with fitness, even to pass my PT test, but little by little I've been able to push myself.  It's all a mental battle, in the end."