Mari Holden cover photo
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

How Mari Holden will #LeadHerForward

By: Cecilia Patten  February 02, 2021

In honor of the 35th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, USA Cycling shares stories from Girls and Women in cycling who will #LeadHerForward.

Sports are much more than just a game or just a competition. Sports are an opportunity to learn more about yourself and develop skills that will benefit you in and out of competition. National Girls and Women in Sports Day is all about celebrating and encouraging the involvement of females in sports, so more women can emerge as leaders in sports and life.

We had the opportunity to ask cyclists in our community what sport has meant to them throughout their lives and how they will #LeadHerForward!

Here is what Mari Holden had to say:

What has sport meant to you throughout your life?

Sports have been a major influence in my life. I would say the first time that I really got excited about sports was when the Olympics came to Los Angeles in 1984. I was so captivated by the excitement and representing USA. It was around that time that I borrowed a “race” bike to go for a 50-mile ride with my school’s cycling club. I didn’t know it at the time but 1984 was the first time women were allowed to compete in the Olympics in Cycling. I didn’t know any women cyclists near me in Southern CA so I started in triathlons. But, back then triathlon was not an Olympic sport and I really wanted to go to the Olympics. I switched to cycling and dove in head first! My journey to finally being in the Olympics defined my life. I learned to deal with setbacks and my own inner strength. Finally winning an Olympic medal was the biggest moment in my life. Part of what made it so special was that I knew how many things had to go right in order for it to happen.

Now that I am retired from racing, I am motivated to see more young women have equal opportunities in sport. My dream is that in 2028 when the Olympics return to Los Angeles the young women watching will be able to enter sport and be treated as equals. I’m working hard to help be a part of this positive change.

How did you get involved in sport?

I got involved because we had a cycling club at my school. I thought it looked fun so I borrowed a bike and went on a 50-mile ride around Lake Casitas. It’s still one of my favorite loops. I loved the feeling of breathing hard and the freedom from being on the road. I had never felt that kind of energy. I was hooked. I would ride my bike as much as I could. I was 12/ 13 years old and all I wanted to do was go on long rides and make cookies… LOL

What advice would you give your younger self?

I think that the best advice I could give my younger self would be to always do things in a way that you can be proud of because how you accomplish your goals and live your life is ultimately more important than any kind of outward recognition. When all is said and done, you have to feel good about how you accomplished your goals and how you treated other people. My other piece of advice is that with big dreams you have to always focus on the small steps that lay the foundation to achieving them.

How will you #LeadHerForward?

I am leading forward by staying involved in the sport and finding more ways to get more young girls on bikes and help them stay involved. My work at USA Cycling is to build community for both boys and girls, but my goal is to see more equality and I will do my best to champion this effort.

Want to share how you will #LeadHerForward? Send your story to!