Current lack of female role models for elite athletes: ‘That’s us now’

The women's team during the World Cup semi-finals.  (Pablo Garcia/RFEF)
The women’s team during the World Cup semi-finals. (Pablo Garcia/RFEF)

Over the years, the number female athlete has increased significantly. Along with it comes an increase in the number of appearances in the media, newspaper covers, TV news, interviews and reports. Alexia Putellas, Ana Peleteiro, Mireia Belmonte, Serena Williams, Carolina Marín, Lydia Valentín, Simone Biles, they are Give many children a reference An example worthy of emulation by everyone in the world. But who are these professional athletes’ idols? Or rather, idols.

A few years ago, few or almost no women were represented, not on covers, but in certain pages of newspapers, and rarely on television at all. This makes yesterday’s girls and today’s elite athletes, They grow up with only male references. When they think of sports like football, basketball, tennis, karate, weightlifting or Formula 1, they think of Ronaldo Nazario, Michael Schumacher, Ronaldinho, Conor McGregor, Paul ·Names like Gasol, Tiger Woods, Andrea Agassi, Michael Phelps or Alberto Contador. Today’s athletes follow the sports stars of a few years ago. They are all men.

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It’s an issue that many women currently in the sport’s elite ranks have recently decried. They realized that they never had a female reference, an idol, a woman to look at and think, “I want to be like her,” because they weren’t getting attention, not making sports news. female. They were relegated to the background.

Spanish basketball players participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics preliminaries.  (EFE/Daniel Pérez)
Spanish basketball players participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics preliminaries. (EFE/Daniel Pérez)

“When I started playing, I had no female references. You (referring to the media) didn’t show women’s football. How could I meet them? How could I imagine myself making it to the national team and becoming what I am now, being a reference? Today We walk down the street and people stop talking to us, they tell us “my daughter really likes you and she wants to be like you”, not only to me but to other players as well. Today we have our own reference . If we stop at the first obstacle, this won’t happen. “It’s an ongoing battle that doesn’t just start with me, but a lot of people started a long time ago. “These words are Marta Vieira da SilvaMarta at the 2023 Women’s World Cup Australia press conference.

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She continued: “That’s why we are very proud. People are asking our generation to continue doing this, inspiring more and more young people. Age is not a problem. It is logical that I am very happy about it all, because 20 years ago, in 2003, no one knew Marta. It was my first drink, but 20 years later everything changed and I became a role model for many women around the world. Not only in football, but also in journalism. Here (in the press room) you see a lot of female journalists that we haven’t seen before. “We have opened the door to equality. ” She is an icon in women’s football and can’t help but get excited when she thinks about what they have achieved over the years. They have realized that women are now represented in sport.

Apart from, Lydia Valentine, The Olympic weightlifting champion stressed in an interview how difficult it is to commit to the sport as a woman: “The road is long and full of obstacles. Lifting weights and being a woman seem contradictory, but now girls want to practice when they see me. In my hometown of Camponaraia, many girls want to be like me and it is very important for me to be a reference for those girls who are just starting out, because mothers also feel at peace. “I hope my story can serve as a reference,” he added. I had a dream as a kid to play a sport that was less normal for girls and even more unusual for girls. Despite the many obstacles, it was always clear to me that my message was to pursue your dreams at all costs, no matter what. “

    Lidia Valentín at the German Weightlifting Grand Prix
Lidia Valentín at the German Weightlifting Grand Prix

In Formula One, Martha GarciaThe Spanish F1 Academy driver who is about to win the championship said in an interview that his idols are Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, both of whom are men. Although she also emphasized: “In communications agencies, in engineering departments, more and more women…it will grow like a pyramid, but everything will not happen overnight.” We’ve paved the way for other girls. They have references, something that is necessary to realize your dream in Formula One or other categories. “

A more recent example is the world championship, Olga CarmonaAuthor of Spain’s goal against England in the World Cup final. The footballer proudly said in a recent interview: “Now they are lucky to have female references that I didn’t have at the time.” They were the first references, who broke the rules and took to the stage to create a legacy for women in the world. The world of sports opens up a range of possibilities. Now they are references.

Ana Peleteiro poses with her triple jump bronze medal from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Ana Peleteiro poses with her triple jump bronze medal from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The last Olympics, the Tokyo “2020” Games, which were held in 2021 due to the pandemic, saw a significant increase in the number of female participants, from 227 at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics (the first Olympic Games to include women) to more than 5,400 women.This last message also shows that the Olympic movement is getting closer to gender equality, as 48.8% of participants were female. However, the disparity in the number of federal licenses with men still reflects a larger gap between the two. A study conducted by Francisco Victoria University and the Women’s Sports Institute showed that 76.5% of federation athletes are male, while only 23.5% are female.

That said, while women’s sports have made great progress, from a statistical perspective, they are still a long way from being similar to men’s sports. What is clear is that the seeds have been planted and the best athletes competing today have marked the front and back, they have laid the foundation for the future and they have paved the way for the thousands of girls who have them today. There are definitely female references.

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