I’m happy to be back from a brief, unplanned and unexpected hiatus from Sperk*. No, I did not go on vacation. Let’s just agree that the heat got to me.
Thanks to Anna Mahler, monthly contributor to Wednesday’s Woman and creator of The Mommy Padawan, who tweeted past Wednesday’s Woman honorees last week during which time I was hiding away in a puddle of sweat.
This week’s honoree is a trailblazer—the first female athlete to represent her country in the Olympics. She will be doing so in London for the 2012Summer Olympics. Below, you’ll also get a brief history of women in the Olympics. Be sure to check out some of the links for more reading, paying close attention to the story brewing about Saudi Arabia being the only country to not have a female athlete this month in London.
As a modern American woman, I do not recall being banned from anything because of my gender. Luckily I’ve not ever been interested in participating in anything that required me to be male, like playing baseball, belonging to a fraternity, or attending Hampden–SydneyCollege. However, the quest for gender equality is still in existence, is global, and spans many arenas, including sports.
|Women's Tennis Tournament|
at the 1900 Olympic Games
Although the first modern Olympic Games was held in Athens in 1896, female competitors did not participate until the Games of the II Olympiad which was held in conjunction with the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. Women were allowed to compete in lawn tennis and golf. Additionally, France had female croquet players and at least one woman sailor as part of mixed crew. Over time, more women’s events were added leading to this year’s 2012 Summer Olympics, officially named the Games of theXXX Olympiad. With the addition of women’s boxing, there are no remaining sports that do not include events for women.
The International Olympic Committee has not been the staunchest supporter of women in athletics. The I.O.C holds a reputation for standing up for human rights gained by banning South Africa from the Olympics for nearly 30 years, until 1992, because of the official policy of apartheid that kept black athletes from competing. However, the governing organization of the Olympics has continued to allow the discrimination of women in sports.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Southeast Asian nation of Brunei have never sent a female athlete to an Olympics, until now.
The country of Qatar will have women competing in air-rifle, swimming and track events in London. Saudi Arabia agreed to field female athletes who qualify on their own merits, without a special berth, for the Games. However, their one hopeful, Dalma Rushdi Malhasan, an equestrian, was sidelined when her horse was injured.
In a recent interview, Brunei’s Maziah Mahusin, who has no other women to train with, encouraged her country and the women of her country:
"It is my aspiration to see more young women athletes participate in sport, I think women in Brunei should not give up too easily, and one must have a lot of patience and constantly motivate oneself towards self-improvement. The support for women to pursue an interest in sport is also desperately needed." (Reuters)
Yesterday, in the last competition before going to the Olympics, the 19th Open International Athletics Tournament in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Mahusin set a new personal best and will compete in the final today.
Although Mahusin is not expected to medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, being the first female athlete to represent her country is an accomplishment in and of itself. She's a trailblazer, an inspiration, and today's Wednesday's Woman.