Women in Sports
When we think of sports in general, football, basketball, or other famous sports come to mind. We also think of the most famous players of these sports and usually, they are all men, are not they? In honour of Women's Week, which we are doing as part of the Utopia 500 project, today we are going to talk about women in sports!
The journey begins with a little history of how women in ancient Greece managed to participate in sports! The first woman to watch the Olympic Games was Kallipateira. She disguised herself as a man to visit her struggling son. When her identity was revealed, those in charge did not punish her but made it mandatory for all men to go naked to the next Olympics to prove their gender.
Later, the first woman to win a medal at the Olympics was Kyniska from Sparta, who won the four-horse chariot race in 396 BC and again in 392 BC.
But the real history of women in sports goes back to the 19th century. More specifically, at the end of the 19th century, horseback riding, archery, golf, tennis, skiing, and skating were popular among upper-class women.
The first participation of women in the Olympic Games in modern times was at the second Olympic Games in 1900 in Paris! At that time, 22 women participated in tennis, sailing, croquet, horseback riding and golf.
Since then everything has changed, and from that time of absence of women in sports we are today, in the 21st century. In 2012, the London Olympics were the first in which women competed in every sport that was on the schedule. And since 1991, any new sport to be included in the Olympic program must-have women's competitions. The most amazing and noteworthy statistic is the fact that at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, 45% of the participants were women. So we can all understand that sports are becoming more and more popular among women and that we are very close to the utopian equality in this field!
Now let us take a look at what happens to girls who participate in sports during this time!
First of all, it has been proven that women who participate in sports in high school have a 76% chance of staying interested in sports for the rest of their lives. In the 1970s and 1980s, girls' participation in these activities increased. These were the women who changed people's minds because they are the ones who now encourage their daughters to play sports!
But what drives women, in general, to participate in sports?
The most common answers relate to the health and emotional benefits. It has been proven that people who exercise have many mental health benefits, as it helps reduce stress and stay calm, helps with depression, and also boosts self-confidence. Another benefit is that participating in team sports has a greater impact on mental health than individual sports.
It’s also important to mention some famous female athletes who have achieved a lot in their field. Probably the most famous is Serena Williams, the tennis player who has won several Grand Slams and Olympic medals. Another is Nadia Nadim, an Afghan refugee who fled to Denmark and now plays for the Danish national football team, among others. She also speaks 9 languages and is studying surgery. Another famous player is Katerina Stefanidi, a pole-vaulter from Greece who has won many championships and medals. She is considered the greatest female athlete in Greece.
Then we have to mention Rosa Mota. She is a former Portuguese marathon runner and the first woman to win an Olympic medal for Portugal in 1984. She is the first woman to win multiple Olympic marathon medals and the only woman to be the reigning European, World and Olympic champion at the same time.
Another great athlete is Bebe Vio from Italy. She is a young wheelchair fencer who competes at the international level and at the Paralympic Games.
The last female athlete I want to mention is Allyson Felix, a famous track and field athlete from the USA. Her importance has to do with sports but even more with women’s empowerment and equal rights. A famous company sponsored her, but when she became a mother, the company decided to reduce her sponsorship. When she complained, they told her to "know her place" and so she decided to create her own brand of shoes. This picture is her response with the caption "I KNOW MY PLACE (and it's in my own shoes!)".
So, by closing, I would like to say my personal experience as an athlete myself. Doing sports give me so much confidence and self-esteem, it also helped me a lot in controlling my emotions when I was a child and learning how to exist with other people. Now as a grown-up, playing my sport as a hobby really keeps me calm and helps with the well being of my mental health so it’s something that I suggest to everyone who is dealing with something related to that!
I hope the future will give us some amazing athletic moments from women who are now training in fields!
Written by Foteini Skiza.