Sports Zone

Run, jump and throw – like a girl

Sandra Perkovic Photo provided

A few years ago on a warm spring day, I took a friend’s son who had shown an interest in running to the legendary Hayward Field.
I thought, why not give him a taste of Hayward, the track and the grandstands? We walked the track, over to the start line of the 100 meters amidst a group of Ducks women athletes stretching, running and cooling down after their workouts.
I showed him the starting line, then told him I would walk to the finish line, and once there would shout for him to start. A few seconds later I shouted, ”Take your mark, set, go!” but he didn’t run. I tried again: ”Take your mark, set, go!” Again, he didn’t run.
Perhaps it was just the enormousness of Hayward Field, and shyness overtook him. No amount of prodding got him to run. I returned to the starting line and asked him why he didn’t run. Then he said something that surprised me.
”I don’t want to run … but I’m faster than a girl!”
Sadly, there is only so much an adult will endure when trying to mold the life of a young person and I’m not sure what I said after that was the best thing, but … I lost my cool and pointed to all the women on the field and said, ”There are 30 women on this track right now who are faster than I ever was or you will ever be. It means nothing to say you’re faster than a girl!”
Attitudes about men and women – who is faster and who is stronger, and who should or shouldn’t participate – have persisted through the ages. Fortunately, the science of human performance does not care about any prejudice and, to put it simply, when it comes to society and sports, women perform at the highest levels.
Pierre de Coubertin was a French educator, historian and founder of the International Olympic Committee, and is known as the father of the modern Olympic Games. Swept up in a noble idealism, de Coubertin and his associates conceived of the modern Olympics as a way to a transcend politics, aggression and warfare. These were big-thinkers, as de Coubertin’s quote at the top of this page indicates.
Big thinkers – except for one little detail: They excluded women.
In their world, women were expected to stay at home, get married, have babies, defer to their husbands, remain uneducated, ignore politics, not smoke, ride sidesaddle, and to basically sit at home reading poetry while arranging flowers.
Since the first modern games in 1896, things have changed – a lot.
Women first appeared in the Olympics in 1900, participating in tennis and golf – aristocratic sports that traditionally welcomed women. They were soon followed by archery, gymnastics and figure skating, but the barriers to women’s participation in the games took longer to fall.
A parallel event to the Olympics that included women forced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to finally embrace women’s participation. In 1928, track and field for women was included in the Amsterdam Olympics. In that Olympics, the sight of a woman collapsing after running in the 800-meter race provoked a reactionary ban of all women’s track and field; that ban was overturned before the 1932 games owing to a big push by the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union.
The threat of an American boycott of the 1932 games if women were not included pushed things forward, but still, the prejudice against women participating persisted for decades.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that women were included across the spectrum of all Olympic track and field, with the exception of the 50k race-walk.
See page 12.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos