It's International Women’s Equality Day, and to celebrate, we will be looking at the amazing achievements women have made in sport to promote and reach equality across the industry.
Gender discrimination has been shown to suppress women's participation in sports. This is why gender equality is an important factor in determining a country's success in international women's elite sports. It is often the case that, in countries where women are more equal, women are more likely to get involved in sport, hence why it determines the country's success in international tournaments, or perhaps they don’t even participate at all.
We hope that this article can encourage women to get involved in sport and not allow their gender to get in the way, building a stronger foundation of equality around the world.
Gertrude Caroline Ederle
In 1926, Gertrude Caroline Ederele became the first woman to swim across the English Channel from France to England. She managed to complete the swim in 14 hours and 34 minutes, beating the previous men’s by almost 2 hours, 1 hour and 59 minutes to be exact.
This was such a great achievement and moment in history, she was welcomed back with a ticker tape parade in New York City.
In 1948, American Alice Coachman, was the first black woman from any country to win an olympic gold medal. Coachman won the medal in the high jump competition, she was also the first American woman to win a medal.
Coachman managed to break through the discrimination she faced as a black woman, which was groundbreaking and huge step in the right direction for female athletes.
“I've always believed that I could do whatever I set my mind to do. I encourage women to work harder and fight harder”
Lis Hartel was a Danish equestrian who was paralysed by polio in 1944 while pregnant. She managed to make a partial recovery, but unfortunately she had no movement below her knees.
In 1952, she represented Denmark at the Helsinki Olympic games, despite having to be helped onto her horse, she won a silver medal. Four years later, she won another silver at the Olympic games.
Hartel is a great role model who fought for gender equality and the rights of the disabled, she is the founder of Europe's first therapeutic riding centre.
The story of Wilma Rudolph is truly inspiring and motivating. As a child, she was told she would never walk again after suffering with polio, pneumonia and scarlet fever. This, her skin colour, and her gender did not stop her from pursuing her dream of becoming an athlete.
Wilma went on to win 3 gold medals in the 100m and 200m races and the 4x100m relay. Not only this, she broke 2 world records, which she held till her retirement, she ran 200m in 22.9 seconds in 1960 and 100m in 11.2 seconds in 1961.
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King of the United States, a former No.1 tennis player, won 39 major titles, 20 being Wimbeldon titles, all in her 18 years as a professional.
King was an advocate for gender equality, she changed the game for women when she beat Bobby Riggs in 1973, in ‘The Battle of the Sexes’, the results finished as 6-4,6-3,6-3. With 50 million viewers, King allowed girls to have someone to look up to, it was not just a victory in the sport, but for women's rights overall.
In 1974, King founded the Women’s Sports Foundation, it was founded to encourage and seek opportunities for girls in the sports industry.
At aged 14, former Romanian Gymnast Nadia Comaneci was the first to achieve a perfect score of 10 at the 1976 Olympic games for her participation in the asymmetric bars exercise.
During her career, she won 9 Olympic medals and plenty in other tournaments, leading her to retire in 1981 at just 20 years old.
Serena Williams is one of the most successful tennis players of all time. She has won numerous titles and awards, including 23 Grand Slams, and is still going strong at almost 40 years of age. She is also the only female tennis player to have been world number one for over 300 weeks.
You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.
Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player from Japan. She is the first Asian player to be ranked No. 1 by the Women's Tennis Association, and has won four Grand Slam singles titles.
Osaka is an advocate for equality and social change, not just for women but people of colour that are still sadly oppressed in the 21st century.
Osaka has teamed up with Nike and Laureus Sport to launch a play academy to get more girls involved in sports, by ensuring positive play experiences, through grants and gender inclusive training.
All these women have achieved amazing things during their career and after, they are actively fighting for equality, not just in sport but in everyday life. The more girls and women that get involved in sport and speak up can change the world, we hope this article has encouraged you to do the same, whatever gender you are!