It’s Fri-YAY! And as the 2016 Rio Olympics come to a close, we would like to, no wait, we NEED to take some time to pay homage to the incredible amount of badassery from a number of female athletes this past 2 weeks. It is a significant moment in the history of the Olympic Games as well as sports broadcasting in general because as many of us saw while scrolling through our social media feeds, there was plenty of sublte and overt sexism surrounding the achievements of some of the women on behalf of sports commentators.
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With that in mind, we want to share some of the most amazing moments we witnessed throughout the games. Host country Brazil saw their first gold medal of the tournament come from Judo champ Rafaela Silva. Not only did she beat the world no. 1, Rafaela’s personal story is a true rags to riches story that is every bit inspirational.
She is a black woman who grew up in the favelas in Rio, most notably the same City of God favela featured in the movie of the same name. “If you have a dream you have to fight and it will come true” she told the press upon receiving her medal for her historic win.
Also making history in the Judo event was Kosovo’s Majlinda Kelmendi. She is the first athlete to ever win a gold medal for her country in Kosovo’s first ever Olympic Games. Majlinda has previously competed for neighboring country Albania at the London 2012 games, but refused to do that again this time around.
AJ+ reports that Kosovo only declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and has officially been a member of the IOC since 2014. Majllinda has now given the country a whole new date to celebrate, showing that anything is possible if you work hard for it, as she says in the video below:
Chinese diving champion Wu Minxia, 30, has not only netted another gold medal for her country but made history while doing so. She is now officially the greatest champion in Olympic diving history and first 5-time Olympic gold medalist, after she and her partner Shi Tingmao took home the gold in the women’s synchronized 3 meter springboard.
She has won the most diving gold medals by an individual in Olympic history, breaking a six-way tie and leaving Greg Louganis (USA), Pat McCormick (USA), Fu Mingxia (CHN), Guo Jingjing (CHN) and Chen Ruolin (CHN) behind. Wu also notched the record for the most Olympic diving medals won by a woman, surpassing countrywoman Guo JingJing with six, and at age 30 has became the oldest woman to win an Olympic diving gold medal. Check the duo out in action below:
Now this is cool! Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina is the oldest person to compete at the Olympics ate age 41, proving you are never too old to chase your dreams. She is a badass mother (literally, she’s a mom to a 17 year-old son) who has compete in a total of 7 Olympics games and represented 3 countries. When she first competed at the 1992 Barcelona games, she represented the USSR.
Then she represented her native country Uzbekistan after its independence in 1996, 2000, and 2004. In 2002 she moved to Germany to get treatment for her son who had leukemia, and ended up competing for Germany in 2008 and 2012. This year she is back competing for Uzbekistan and is certainly giving her fellow citizens a reason to celebrate her extraordinary achievements.
While everyone is talking about Michael Phelps’ victories in the pool, let’s not forget about his fellow American Katie Ledecky who not only set a new world record in the 400 meter freestyle event, but the previous record she broke was also her own! In total she won 4 gold medals (200m, 400m & 800m freestyle, and 4x200m freestyle relay) and 1 silver for the 4x100m freestyle relay.
But there’s something interested about her achievements that probably explain why sexism and bias still exists in the Olympics. In 2014 Katie broke another world record (also her own) in the 1500 meter swim at the Pac Pacific Championships held in Australia, completing the event faster than any other female swimmer in history. Yet there’s a catch. There is NO 1500 meter event for women at the Olympics, in fact the longest race for women only reaches 800m. WTF?!
“As the Wall Street Journal points out, women’s side of the competition is still largely dominated by short distances, smaller fields, and overall lesser conditions than the male counterparts, leaving many Olympians — some of whom are currently the best in the world, regardless of gender — feeling less accomplished, with very real consequences,” writes Lily Puckett at Teen Vogue.
Clearly its time to change things up and stop putting women in any other category than equal to men in an arena which is often touted as a sporting event where social status, financial status and any other varying factor do not count when competing. How many world records will Katie Ledecky need to break for this to become a reality?
Staying in the pool for a moment, it seems there were a number of women set on breaking world records and winning medals. Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu, competing in her 4th Olympic games, won her 400m Individual medley finals and shattering the previous world record set by Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen in London in 2012. The woman nicknamed “The Iron Lady” has now won her first Olympic gold medal, and frustratingly an NBC correspondent decided to give the credit to her husband & coach (as seen in the first video in this piece) rather than just lauding her for what she achieved.
American swimmer Simone Manuel tied for the gold medal with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in the 100m freestyle race but broke a barrier of a different kind. She became the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming, and gold, no less! Both Simone and Penny beat the current world record holder Cate Campbell of Australia in this race. In a statement to the press, she commented on her win and how historic it was, being a woman of color.
“The gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people that came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport. For people who believe that they can’t do it. I hope I’m an inspiration to others to get out there and try swimming…It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality. This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory,” she said.
The race issue certainly came into play, with many keen viewers outraged that NBC did not air Simone’s medal ceremony live, instead choosing to cut to gymnastics footage instead. BBC did air the medal ceremony live, and NBC eventually followed suit. There was also plenty of Twitter rage over a headline from the San Jose Mercury which tweeted this headline: “Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American.” Ummm, what?!?! Thankfully these idiotic antics, as well as the sexism, has been called out multiple times, causing media publications and commentators to apologize. In the meantime, these women continue to SLAY!
We are also really impressed by the way women from typically conservative countries are breaking barriers in these games. Iranian taekwondo champion Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin, 18, became the first Iranian female to win an Olympic medal by taking home the bronze in the -57kg category.
“I am so happy for Iranian girls because it is the first medal and I hope at the next Olympics we will get a gold,” she said.
It’s being called a “clash of cultures” and others are tweeting the image with statues such as “which would you choose?” in reference to a picture of an Egyptian beach volleyball athlete at the net with a German player. We prefer to call it “progress” and proof that no matter who you are or where you come from, everyone should get a chance to get in the arena and compete. For the first time since beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996, Egypt gave permission to female players to compete and they were also allowed to wear hijabs and full-body outfits, honoring their faith.
The event uniforms were strictly bikinis up until 2012 when the IOC relaxed their stance to be more culturally sensitive. It’s a good move, because it now means young girls in conservative cultures which require certain clothing can look up to these women and know that they too can be professional athletes.
Egypt fared well in the weightlifting event, with 18 year old Sara Ahmed making Olympic history Wednesday by not only becoming the first Arab woman to win a medal in weightlifting, but also the first Egyptian woman to stand on the podium. After receiving her medal, she told the press how she hopes her win will inspire other girls to get into the sport.
“A new weightlifting generation can be born, a new beginning,” she said.
And of course, since we’re based in the US and we’re just a tad biased, we can’t go past the phenomenal achievements of the women’s gymnastics team, who for the second Olympic games in a row took home the gold for the all-round team competition. In 2012 all eyes were on Gabby Douglas who made history, but this year it was all about “the Biles”. That is the nickname given to teammate Simone Biles’ signature moves which have catapulted her into the history books.
She will leave Rio with 4 gold medals and one bronze. First she won gold in the all-round competition with her “Final Five” teammates (named as such because they are the last team coached by Martha Karolyi, the legendary Romanian woman who has been the national team coordinator of the U.S. women’s gymnastics program for the last 15 years), then won gold in the individual all-round, the vault and the floor routine. She also got a bronze in the vault event. NBD…
Her five medals tie the most for an American female gymnast in a single Olympics and her four golds tie an Olympic record shared by four others. Needless to say, her floor routines and bar work is the stuff of legends. If you haven’t witnessed the greatness of Team USA’s gymnasts, and especially Simone Biles’ extraordinary talent, watch the videos below and prepare to be mesmerized. Happy Feminist Friday, fam!