Pro triathlete Emma Pallant-Browne is speaking out about competing while on her period.

The No. 7-ranked triathlete in the world, Pallant-Browne is receiving widespread praise for her response after an Instagram commenter criticized a photo of her that showed a menstrual blood stain.

“Not the most flattering pic… surely you can crop it a bit better,” said the commenter, in reference to a photo posted by the PTO European Open in Ibiza.

“Thanks for caring but definitely something I’m not shy to talk about because it’s the reality of females in sport,” Pallant-Browne responded. “My period comes over a month in between and there will be one day where it is super heavy, I pray it won’t be race day but every now and then it is. No matter what tampon I have experimented with, for anything over three hours it’s too heavy.

“So just as someone might get gut issues in a race I have to suck it up and give what I have and not be afraid to talk to women who have the same problem.”

The response has struck a chord with many athletes who deal with similar issues, who have praised Pallant-Browne’s honesty.

“I literally just posted a story about my race performance yesterday and the impact of time of month,” wrote fellow triathlete Renee Kiley. “Totally need to normalize conversations about it because it really shouldn’t be awkward or a huge deal at all. Just part of life.”

Paralympian Stef Reid echoed those sentiments, writing, “We see photos of athletes all the time with bruises and blood. Why should this one draw shame?”

The inaugural Collins Cup delivered a thrilling finish over the weekend, with Team Europe’s triathletes coming out on top.

Britain’s Emma Pallant-Browne and Kat Matthews won the final two women’s matches to tilt the scales in Team Europe’s favor, leading to the eventual win with total 42.5 points. Team USA came in second with 31.5 points, while Team Internationals placed third with 25.5 points.

Despite the second-place finish, Team USA delivered some of the day’s most exciting upsets.

In one of 12 races featuring 36 of the world’s top professional triathletes, Team USA’s Taylor Knibb ran away from European star Daniela Ryf, winning by a colossal 16 minutes. She became one of just two athletes to claim the maximum three bonus points in a race.

Lucy Charles-Barclay pulled away from Katie Zaferes in Match 2 to win the run portion of the match for Team Europe. Team USA’s Jackie Hering then continued where Knibb left off, upsetting Ironman world champion Anne Haug.

Ultimately, Team Europe’s power was too much for Team USA to overcome. The Europeans lifted the Collins Cup and took home the $1.5 million prize, the largest ever in the sport.

Kendall Gretsch took home Paralympic gold, beating Australian Lauren Parker down the homestretch of the women’s triathlon PTWC.

The American crossed the line with a time of 1:06:25, besting Parker, who finished at 1:06:26. With Saturday’s win, Gretsch becomes the fifth American to clinch gold at the summer and winter Paralympic Games. Gretsch previously won the 6km biathlon race at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Allysa Seely clinched gold in the PTS2 triathlon, defending her title from five years ago. Team USA teammate Hailey Danz repeated her silver medal as well, for a 1-2 U.S. finish.

Seely’s first-place finish looked unlikely only eight months ago when the Paralympian landed in the hospital with a life-threatening infection.

“So many people thought it wasn’t possible even eight months ago,” Seely said after the race.

“Five years ago still feels like a fairytale,” she added. “Today, I’m just so grateful.”

The inaugural Collins Cup debuts this weekend with the world’s greatest triathletes competing to win a $1.5 million prize, the largest ever in the history of the sport.

Named after Judy and John Collins, who were instrumental in establishing the sport, and hosted by the Professional Triathlete Organization, the event officially kicks off Friday and competition begins Saturday in Šamorín, Slovakia.

Since its inception, the triathlon has prioritized gender equality, with women and men racing the same distance over the same course for equal prize money. In that spirit, the Collins Cup offers equal prize money, broadcast airtime and promotion/support for the women and men competing this weekend.

Women who compete with the PTO also receive 15 months of paid maternity leave without losing their spot in the world rankings.

How the Collins Cup works

Team U.S., Team International and Team Europe each feature 12 athletes (six women and six men) who will compete in individual race matches consisting of a 2km swim, 80km bike and an 18km run.

How it’s scored

The winner of each 12 race matches will be awarded three points. The runner-up earns two points and the third-place contestant receives one point.

Additionally, athletes will earn 1/2 bonus point for every time they beat their opponents by a two-minute margin in their respective races. At the end of the competition, the team with the most points takes home the $1.5 million prize.

Who’s competing?

U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes (2021 Tokyo Olympics silver and bronze medalist) and Taylor Knibb (2021 Tokyo Olympics silver medalist) headline Team USA’s roster. Four-time Ironman World Champion and four-time 70.3 World Champion Daniela Ryf lead the way for Team Europe, while multiple Ironman winner Lisa Bentley captains Team Internationals.

When and how to watch

The Collins Cup will air on the official Collins Cup website starting at 6:30 a.m. ET on Saturday. The broadcast will run for the full seven-hour event.

Gwen Jorgensen is a professional distance runner and former triathlete. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Jorgenson won the USA’s first-ever triathlon gold medal. She spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her current partnership with Wasserman and Orreco, which looks to help athletes understand their periods effects on their athletic performance. (To read an overview of the partnership, click here.) 

How did you first hear about the partnership and what was your reaction? 

I remember Wasserman reached out and just said, “Wasserman’s been working with Orreco about their periods and how it affects performance.” And I was really intrigued and curious. I’ve always been a big proponent about getting your period. And I think when I was growing up, there was this stigma of like, “Oh, if you don’t get your period, it’s a good thing.” And so, I was very interested, very intrigued, curious, but I was also a little doubtful.

But honestly, my partnership with them has surpassed and exceeded all my expectations. And I want everyone to have their own little Dr. Georgie in their circle. It’s been incredible. I’m a mom and a female athlete, and as an athlete I was once told that I could manipulate my period by going on birth control so that I wouldn’t be on my period during race days because otherwise you’ll perform worse. It came from a male figure who was kind of a coach. And that never really resonated with me well. And so, talking to Dr. Georgie and just hearing like, “No, we can do things like sleep and manipulate nutrition to actually perform on any day of your cycle.” I love that, and I love seeing the impact of that, and I think that’s a really great message for women.

How knowledgeable were you already about the science regarding how the menstrual cycle affects athletic performance? 

I would say I wasn’t super knowledgeable. I knew little things about why some women need to go on hormonal birth control, but I never knew the science behind it. I’d heard women talking about why they cooked certain foods during different phases in their cycle, and I remember being really intrigued by that, but I didn’t really research it.

What’s most surprising about the science/or what’s the biggest insight that you’ve learned?

There’s been so many, it’s hard to pick one. For me personally, it was interesting because Dr. Georgie asked me if I got any symptoms, and I told her, no, I’m great. I don’t really get any symptoms. But she asked me to start tracking them anyways, and it turned out, I actually had a lot of symptoms. And I was like, “Well, yeah, but I just feel blessed because they’re not debilitating. I can live my life and it’s fine if I get a cramp, etc.” For me, I never talked about them as symptoms because I thought they were minimal. So that was really neat for me to learn and go through and have her acknowledge, “Those symptoms that you’re getting, maybe they’re not stopping you from doing what you’re doing, but we can make them even better, so you can perform even better on every day of your cycle.”

Some of the biggest things I learned were around nutrition. I feel like the, “You eat more fatty fish and berries around your fourth and first phase and eat more carbs during the training in phases three and four, then carbo-load in phases one and two” — things like that are interesting. I had some different coaches throughout my career who have wanted me to fast and to have some fasted runs or things like that. And to know that maybe during certain phases that might not be good, but during other phases of my cycle, it may be better — learning things like that has been really interesting.

More and more athletes and teams are discussing the need to track the menstrual cycle in order to maximize performance, but what needs to happen to bring this conversation into the mainstream? 

I think there’s some people on our team who are more shy about it or don’t want to talk about it. But right now I’m part of the Bowerman Track Club, and Shalane Flanagan just became a coach. She’s always been super good about making it very known. Like, “If you aren’t getting your period, speak up, saying something to us.” Because that’s an indicator of something going wrong.

And so that’s a good thing. But I feel like to help take it to the next level, coaches need to have a really good open line of communication about periods. I think there’s a lot of females with male coaches, and I think it’s just like, “Oh, we shouldn’t talk about that.” But it needs to be more prevalent. And I think it needs to be talked about more between athletes and their coaches. The coaches that I’ve loved are experts at getting me ready to be my best on race day. They’re not afraid of having other people join the circle, right? So I have a sports psychologist. I have a nutritionist. I have a strength coach. Everyone is an expert in their field. And I think it’s important to have somebody like a Dr. Georgie in that circle, as somebody who’s an expert on my period and how it relates to my performance. I think it should be normal to say, I have a nutritionist, and I have a period coach.

One of the things I’ve loved about Dr. George is that we don’t have to change our training. We can mitigate symptoms through things like getting more rest or having certain foods or doing some yoga during certain times of your cycle so that you’re ready to perform on any day of your cycle. I think that’s super important for people to know. This isn’t like, “Oh, you can’t perform on day 20 of your cycle.” It’s not like that at all. It’s more, “No, we want to get you so that every day of your cycle, you’re ready to be a hundred percent.” And that’s something that is just so cool to be able to learn about and to be able to know I’m flying up to the start line and no stone has been left unturned. I know that no matter what day of my cycle I am, I can perform.

Do you see this partnership with Orreco as being part of a broader effort to normalize the discussion?

Yeah. I mean, we need to normalize periods, bottom line. We just need to normalize them, and menstruating, and females. And I think there’s not a lot of studies that have been done on females, and it’s sad. And I think what Orreco and FitrWoman and Dr. Georgie and everyone’s doing is going to bring it more to the forefront. But it definitely is going to take a lot of effort and time and getting the word out and letting people know this is important and sports science is not just about male athletes, it’s about female athletes as well.

How has this experience with Orreco changed or impacted your training?

Honestly my training isn’t actually changing that much, which is what I actually love about this partnership. But it’s everything outside of what you would typically consider training that’s changing. So my nap schedule, my resting, the foods I focus on and those sorts of things are changing, and that’s been something that’s been super cool to see then how that actually transforms into better training. And it’s not perfected. I still have monthly calls with Dr. Georgie and we’re like, “Okay, what went well this month?”

Sometimes there’s a new symptom that pops up and we’re like, “Okay, we’ve never seen this before. Why do we think that is? Did you have a down week? Did you train super hard? What are the factors?” That’s why I think, going back to earlier when I said, “Maybe we need a period coach.” Because it is something that’s ever-evolving and ever-changing.

Was there anything else that you wanted to bring up that I didn’t mention at all?

I think it’s just so important to normalize periods and know that, if you’re an athlete, it’s not okay if your period stops. Know that it’s good to talk about these things and everyone gets different symptoms and we can overcome those and become better athletes if we are able to do the right things and keep focused on the process.