Monday, August 13, 2012

Reaching Olympus

Gabby Douglas
'This is how it happens: a steady drumbeat of success over so many years, wearing away at obstacles, pursuing a metal disc that says you have value because you won something, until eventually you look around and there are soccer players, shooters, gymnasts, weightlifters, boxers and judokas wearing them too, and it begins to look like the winner's podium just might be genderless.'
Thus does sportwriter Sally Jenkins, concluding her uplifting Washington Post column on the success of women at the Olympics just ended in London. The column notes the 1st-ever appearance of women on every country's team, an achievement about which IntLawGrrl Jaya Ramji-Nogales posted when the Games began. It notes, too, that among the top 3 medal-winning countries, the leading medal-winners were women – "despite the fact that there were 30 fewer medals available to be won."
Caster Semenya
That observation calls for a moment to celebrate performances of women like:
► Gymnast Gabby Douglas and the rest of her gold-medal team;
► Swimmers Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, and Ye Shiwen;
► Runner Caster Semenya; and
► Boxers Katie Taylor – Ireland's only gold medalist this year – and Claressa Shields.
Celebrate as well the U.S. women's basketball and soccer teams (too many to mention), and that world-record-disintegrating 4x100 relay team of Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight, and Carmelita Jeter.
(Let's all take a moment, too, to rue the overheated and unproductive commentary on these athletes' clothes, hair, etc. That stuff may boost ratings, but it sure gets in the way of sports.)
Katie Taylor
Through anecdotes about pathbreaking athletes past and present, Jenkins' column serves to remind how hard it is to get to the winner's podium – one that she might have better described as "gender-full."

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