Sunday, 5 August 2012

Olympian Ladies

I am not a fan of sports, constantly moaning at the mention of another football game or horse racing on the tv. However, the Olympics has provided me with good background noise and distraction from real life as well as a fascinating insight into sports that I have never really thought about.
The first women to take part in the Olympics was in Paris 1900, where they were able to take part in events such as Lawn Tennis, Croquet, Equestrian, Yatching and Golf. London 2012 has added women's Boxing, which has meant that there is no sport in the Olympics which doesn't have a women's event. Women certainly have advanced themselves in the sporting world in the last 100 years.

The talking point of this year for Team GB, and maybe the whole competition, has to be the female competitors. Not only did GB win a string of rowing medals, with Helen and Heather taking the first gold for GB in their rowing event, but Jessica Ennis last night made a unique and inspiring win for her career, for Britain and for women. Ennis couldn't take park in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 due to injury and she has trained hard in the last four years to make sure that she could take part in the heptathlon on home turf. Her determination, cool head and her amazing talent took her to gold from the first couple of events and made her almost unstoppable as she entered the final 800m run that made her Olympic Champion. There is no doubt that she is the champion of the GB team.

Heptathlon Team GB (L-R): Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Gold Medalist Jessica Ennis and Louise Hazel.

 During the week, after our women were bringing in the medals thick and fast, Denise Lewis was being interviewed on the BBC about some of the events. She made a great point that this Olympics has shown that women are making an impact as much as the men and we need to have a separate category for them at the Sports Personality of the Year Award. Her outbust came after no women were in the final ten nominees of the award in 2011, which resulted in a lot of criticism and debate about allowing women their own category or even having a minimum requirement for female nominees. Up to the point of posting this, women hold 13 of the 37 medals won for Great Britain so far, which surely shows that we need a bigger representation in the award if women are able to be so successful against the men. Some of the women are new to the Olympics and have competed to outstanding levels such as Ennis and her fellow Heptathlon younger teammate Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

I was astonished to hear during the opening ceremony that this is the first Olympics in history to have a woman in all of the 204 participating countries. This week saw the first female competitors for Saudi Arabia- Wojdan Shahrkhani(Judo) and American-born Sarah Attar (800m). These women were only allowed to participate provided that they wore Islamic clothing to respect their culture. People from Saudi are still split about the move to allow women to participate, some arguing that the women might be inspired by Western cultures and expose their bodies. For Shahrkhani, the International Olympic Committee allowed her to wear a special headscarf so that she could remain faithful to her culture as well as participate safely. This participation from women is a great step for a country that is still very much behind in terms of freedom for women.

Shahrkhani and Attar with their teammates at the opening Ceremony. Image BBC

Well done Internation Olympic Committee for representing the women of the sporting world, but more importantly, well done to all the women taking part in what seems to be a spectacular year.

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