A Sense for Purpose

Anna Kournikova and K-Swiss run for St. Jude

As fate would have it, the final day of the Sony Ericsson Open had Miami’s Anna Kournikova front and center — but she was not playing tennis. Rather, the international superstar was helping children by participating in the second annual Nautica South Beach Triathlon, which raised $137,500 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Participants gathered on South Beach before dawn and ran into the Atlantic for a half-mile swim, then biked 19 miles over Miami Beach’s causeways, through downtown and Miami Beach, before finishing with a four mile run that concluded where it began, on the sands of South Beach.

Footwear giant K-Swiss was one of the sponsors and through a post-race affair aboard the Biscayne Lady, a yacht charter based out of the Bayside Marina, SocialMiami was lucky enough to sit down with Kournikova to learn about her work with the triathlon and St. Jude, her other philanthropic ventures, as well as her love for Miami.

“K-Swiss suggested that I get involved,” she said. “Last year was my first triathlon and it was here in South Beach. I then ran another one in Malibu and this was my third… I’ve visited St. Jude’s main headquarters in Memphis several times and it’s wonderful what they do. It takes a million dollars a day to maintain their primary hospital. They don’t turn away any of the kids that are sick. It’s really an incredible institution and I’m proud to be running and helping and supporting them.”

Kournikova’s charitable giving does not stop on the sands of South Beach. She has chosen to broaden her horizons through participation and education. In fact, Kournikova recently travelled to Haiti through Public Services International (PSI) to experience first-hand the extremities of the region – an action that is a far cry from her glamorous persona.

“It was sad and interesting and devastating,” she said. “To think that Haiti is only a hour-and-a-half away from Miami is enlightening.”

Although, no matter how much she gives, it’s hard to escape the fact that she is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and in the tradition of Marilyn Monroe, and others who have been identified as sex symbols, Kournikova, a native Russian, entertains American troops through her work with United Service Organizations (USO). She’ll be heading on her second tour in May to Turkey and Germany.

Kournikova’s true calling, however, would appear to be the work she does with children. “I’ve been an ambassador for the Boys and Girls Clubs for the past four or five years. I travel around the country, talk in schools and encourage kids to get active and stay active. We just partnered with Cartoon Network and did a promo trip in New York for the Red Rover Ball campaign…For me it’s all about working with the kids…I guess that I’m a kid at heart. They just need a little attention. They’re so curious and innocent. I’ve been getting some really amazing feedback and that just encourages me to do more.”

When Kournikova is not using her celebrity to make a positive impact, she’s often right here in Miami within the confines of South Beach, an area that she affectionately referred to as “her own little bubble.”

“What’s not to love about Miami,” she said. “It’s absolutely perfect. I’ve lived here since ’97…I don’t really do the club scene. I love the water and I tend to eat at the same four or five places, the classics, not the restaurants that just open and close. I go to Smith and Wollensky, China Grill, Capital Grill.”

Kournikova has embraced Miami over the past 12 years and, in the process, Miami has embraced her. Internationally known with a conscience and quest for knowledge, Kournikova, like many in this community, choose service and giving as a proper balance to the extravagance for which our city is known.

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