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 Women in sport  THE JOURNAL OF SPORT,  LEISURE & RISK  WITH AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE    November 2021







 later lurches forward in the liberation   winning the 100m and 200m double   an avalanche of online racial and sexist   and athletics brought a new vigour to their
 movement. There was of course a re-  again and the 7-time gold medallist Katie   comments and criticism.  sports and a growing appreciative, excited
 orientation, but these incremental gains   Ledecky showing the world she is one   TV audience.
 added to the momentum.  of the greatest swimmers of all time.   Those old ideas of poor female physical
 On Facebook, the top five most talked   and mental strength will still take some   The social dynamism of achieving sporting
 In our era, it is the corona crisis that has   about athletes during the Games were all   breaking down, yet major forward-thinking   equality for women is now a force to
 perhaps contributed the most significant   women. They were getting noticed in all   initiatives are now taking place by national   be reckoned with and the movement is
 jolt to business-as-usual. A body blow   the right places.  and international organisations to place   powerful and imaginative. Opportunistic
 to the bloated men’s leagues, it was   women’s sport on a more even standing.   pathways in female sports are now being
 suspected that the nascent women’s   Sport in 2021, reflecting so much of   In tennis, Grand Slam winners all receive   created and well-funded, with rewards
 games would be submerged by the crisis,   lifestyle and social movements, also   the same prize money, male or female,   evenly available to all, making all those
 yet we have seen women’s sport thrive   became all about the kids. In particular,   and the innovative blending of sport into   marginal gains made over the past century
 during the pandemic as media attention   it was a bunch of cool teens in the Tokyo   mixed gender competition was a defining   head towards a healthy, positive fruition.
 and visibility increases. In the UK, there   skateboarding bowls who literally jumped   trend from the Tokyo Games. New mixed   Our imaginations have already been
 has been a 21% increase in adults following  and flipped the idea of gender barriers   team events in judo, triathlon, swimming   captured and now there’s no turning back.
 women’s sport in the past 18 months,   upside and back. A bunch of teenage
 primarily sparked by significant TV deals   girls winning hearts and minds as well
 with Sky and BBC to show regular live   as medals, were key to finding a new
 football from the Women’s Super League   audience for the Olympic movement,
 and the new cricket format, The Hundred,   especially through two 13 year olds:
 where women’s matches took equal billing  Japan’s gold medallist Momiji Nishiya and
 with the male counterparts at peak time   silver medallist Rassya Leal from Brazil
 across Summer 2021. It’s clear if women   who before the Games already had six
 are seen achieving sporting excellence,   million followers on Instagram and 1.8
 more will start their own journeys and   million on TikTok. Who knows where this
 more will be following them, embracing   attention will take participation and, by
 their success.  creating a message to all those girls stuck
 in front of screens, that they don’t have
 The summer of sport in 2021 was   to be tall, muscular or lean to fast forward
 dominated by the delayed Tokyo 2020   themselves towards the mega money of a
 Olympics. Media attention during the   professional sporting career, sponsorship
 Games switches often to sports that   and endorsements.
 usually thrive only within niche and
 specialist groups, and athletes, usually   Yet despite Tokyo 2020 making huge
 women, who barely get a mention in   strides, including having 49% of all
 between Games. This year has been   athletes being women, more than ever
 recognised by many sporting analysts   before, still only 10% of the coaches
 and journalists as the year when women   were women and much distance is still
 athletes rose up even further, showing   left to run against the eternal problems
 some of the greatest performances   of discrimination, abuse and inequality
 of all time, creating a new breed and   in pay. Significantly, the controversy
 breathing new life into the idea of what   over Simone Biles, the most decorated
 makes a great female Olympian. We all   gymnast of all time, and her Olympic
 know how good they are, and those best   withdrawal due to mental stress and
 of the best proved it, including Elaine   the burden of dealing with sexual abuse
 Thomson-Herah, the fastest woman alive   within her sport, inevitably brought




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