I have always had a keen interest in sport, firstly in horse racing and more recently in cycling. I wanted to write this post in celebration of women in sport, individually and collectively pushing for change and equality, for the achievements they have made and stepping up to be roles models, and for the inspiration they provide for others.
Originally, I tried to focus on one woman as a post for Women’s month but I found it impossible. This post is therefore in celebration of all women in sport whose stories often include far more than just sporting achievements.
Let’s start with Allyson Felix the daughter of an ordained minister and an elementary school teacher who describes her running ability as a gift from God. At school she was nicknamed Chicken Legs by her teammates. She quickly discovered her athletic talents setting records including National Girls High school athlete of the year. She became the first woman to win world titles in the 200 meters and the 400 meters. Additionally, she has now won the most world championship gold medals, and most overall world championship medals, out of any American track and field athlete. She is also a mother who after a difficult pregnancy revealed that she had pre-eclampsia a condition that is disproportionately prevalent in African-American women. She took up the baton on this testifying before the United States House Committee on the topic of black maternal mortality crisis. This has been a focus in the UK recently reporting in Nov 2020 that black British mothers are 5 times more likely to die in pregnancy or 6 weeks after childbirth than white women.
Serena Williams, holder of 23 grand slam titles is widely considered as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Mother of a five-year-old daughter who had complications post birth but still came back to perform on the circuit. Recently she has raised 11 million dollars for an early venture capital fund that will focus on diversity. Serena was inspired after learning that less than 2% of venture money goes to female founders ‘I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that 98% of all this money were talking about – billions of dollars – goes to one type of individual – (The Times March 2 2022)
My favourite sport of cycling has been associated with men for a very long time. Women make up only 24.7 percent of riders due to fashion and fear. They are often put off cycling amid concerns about safety and feeling comfortable on a bike. However, in 2020 women led the way in huge increase in cycling according to Strava the world’s biggest online fitness platform. They have shown the number of runs and cycle rides nearly doubled compared with the same period in 2019. This is attributed to the indoor nature of training taking away the risk of outdoor riding and of course huge steps forward in women specific cycling kit.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio the South African rider has decided to end her 13-year career and focus on business and giving back through eSports. She’s currently the reigning world champion in the discipline and has founded the Rocacorba Collective a safe and inspiring space for women to ride and compete in eSports. She hopes to give back to women riders especially those from South Africa who find it difficult to come to Europe. She particularly enjoys seeing talent coming through and I know she works hard to support and inspire young riders.
So, in this women’s month thank you to these and other sporting legends who inspire and support so many of us who love watching, taking part and competing in events all over the world.