Olympic Gold Medalist Wants To Inspire Healthy Body Standards In Girls

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British athlete Lizzy Yarnold just won gold at the Sochi Winter Olympics for the skeleton event, is vowing to use her newly elevated platform to change the way young girls view their bodies, taking the focus away from the media pressure.

Nothing like winning a Gold Medal as an excuse to inspire other women, go Lizzy! Upon returning to the UK she plans to go to as many schools as possible to encourage girls to take up sport as a means of body confidence.

“It doesn’t have to be skeleton, it could be just at lunchtimes or after school,” said the 25 year old from Kent. “Not worrying about what the media image is of the perfect woman, it’s about being you and being proud and confident about who you are.”

There is apparently a huge gender gap in active sport participation in the UK, and these young women who are winning medals at both these recent Winter Olympics and the London summer Olympics in 2012 are doing their best to create a new breed of positive role models.”There are 1.7 million fewer women participating in sport than men. Many drop out of sport at secondary school, with a further decline at the age of 16.” says the Guardian.

“It’s hard when you’re younger and want to look like everyone else,” says Heptathlon Gold Medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill.

But if the saying “you can’t be what you can’t see” is true then the media should also play their part in promoting the achievements of young successful female athletes so that others can be encouraged to take up a sport.

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“There are so many strong women in sport. I hope we can get more publicity, get in the papers more, get more sport on TV,” said Yarnold, who was a heptathlete before taking up skeleton at the age of 19.

“The cricketers are very strong in Britain, the footballers are great athletes. I intend to go into as many schools as I can, secondary and primary, to tell them to get involved in sport.”

Lizzy was still doing heptathlon when she was discovered by a group called Girls4Gold who look for untapped sporting talent and help them shape their athletic career on the road to Olympic victory. In fact Lizzy had never even heard of the skeleton before joining this program, but within 3 years had won her first World Cup title and now gold at the Olympics.

She plans to defend her title in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

Now I’m Olympic champion, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the gold medal. I understand that,” said Yarnold.

“It was always my aim to go into schools and inspire them and tell them about my career in skeleton and that I found it so late and to say that you can do it. Whether it’s arts or music or sport, you’ve got to follow your dream and dedicate a lot of time to it.”, she added.

“For more women to be inspired and get involved in sport and to prevent these worrying dropout rates, we need a concerted effort to invest in grassroots activities that are specifically marketed to women and girls,” said Ruth Holdaway, Chief Executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation in the UK.

“Women’s sport needs more media coverage and we need better sponsorship opportunities for elite athletes – it’s a whole package.”

This is not just an issue affecting the UK, there could be greater coverage of females in sport globally. It’s bad enough there are still many events at the Olympics that women aren’t allowed to compete in, but the more the media, schools and advertising industries can promote positive images of women, rather than a false view of perceived perfection, we will start to see a shift.

Lizzy says it is about timing, hard work and dedication.

“It was the right moment [in my life] where you could say, ‘You can choose this career path. You can be an athlete full-time if you dedicate yourself. You can win Olympic gold if you work hard enough’.”

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