Team GB women taking centre stage at Olympics

// 1 August 2012


I was going to write a lengthy assessment of the achievement of British women so far at the Olympic Games, combined with an analysis of the media coverage.

But I’m too excited. So instead I’m just going to point out some of my highlights of the Games so far…

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning winning gold in the rowing pairs – the first gold medal for Britain in women’s rowing ever.

Lizzie Armitstead taking silver in the cycling road race, and using the media attention to criticise how sexist coverage of women’s sport still is.

Kate Walsh, the hockey captain, returning to the Olympic Village and intending to return to the team tomorrow – despite fracturing her jaw and undergoing surgery over the weekend.

The women’s football team drawing a crowd of over 70,000 (a record for women’s football in Britain) to Wembley, and then proceeding to put on an incredibly impressive show by beating Brazil 1-0 (and keeping possibly the best-ever female footballer, Marta, utterly quiet throughout). Meanwhile, 3.9 million viewers watched the match on BBC Three.

18-year-old Zoe Smith, at her first Olympics, broke the British record in the -58kg weightlifting with a clean and jerk of 121kg. She’d been getting some horrid abuse on social media (seems to be a recurrent theme these days) and has blogged a brilliantly scathing response – informing the trolls that neither she nor any other world-class lifter is in the sport to make themselves more attractive, “especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we’re flattered. But if you don’t, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place, and what makes you think we actually give a toss that you, personally, do not find us attractive?”

Amazing work.

Comments From You

Louise McCudden // Posted 1 August 2012 at 7:43 pm

Zoe Smith in particular is amazing. She was really impressive lifting weights but then when I saw that blog, just straight-forward down to earth pointing out that those kinds of idiots are hardly the kind of guy or person she’d want to impress, that just made it even cooler!

Feminism can so often get to be about complaining or exploring dark issues, discussing rape culture and domestic violence. It is really really frigging awesome to actually have something cool to celebrate!

They are all fab ladies and despite all cynicism over the games, I think in terms of so much, from gender stereotypes, to POC role models, to even having a more sensible discussion than usual about the binary or otherwise nature of gender/ability etc re the chinese swimmer accused of taking drugs for out-swimming men, it’s been a pretty cool thing. And the suffragettes being honoured in the opening ceremony along with the NHS and trade union movements (much to the dismay of Toby Young) was icing on the cake :)

Anita // Posted 2 August 2012 at 2:42 am

Can we please get 15 year old Rebecca Tunney included here? The youngest member of all team GB and she conducted herself so well during the team events and always seems to be smiling and enjoying the experience.

Sira // Posted 2 August 2012 at 10:02 am

Also very impressive: Mary King, winning silver in the equestrian at the age of 51 – and this 11 years after she broke her neck after being thrown from her horse and walked home holding her head steady in her hands! And she says she’s planning on competing again in four years, which I think would be her fifth olympics. Who says older women are past it!

I’ve found the coverage of the women in the Evening Standard surprisingly good over the past few days. They’ve had a pretty good balance between men and women. Yesterday’s profile of Heather Stanning had two pictures of her – one in the boat and one in her army uniform, not a glamour pose in sight, and the text focused on her sport and her career, nothing about love life, pedicures and how she’s really a girly girl, so nobody needs to feel threatened by how awesome an athlete she is.

Carrie Dunn // Posted 2 August 2012 at 3:00 pm

Add Gemma Gibbons to that list. Guaranteed medal in the judo – we’ve only had one Olympic medal in that sport in 20 years, I believe. Her mother – who took her to her first judo class – died eight years ago, and Gibbons has since said: “When she died, I knew I wanted to carry on but I didn’t know if I would be able to.”

spicy // Posted 2 August 2012 at 3:47 pm

I’ve been loving the Olympics and I’m not usually into watching sport – watching Helen Glover and Heather Stanning brought tears to my eyes – especially watching them immediately afterwards sharing their joy.

The other bit of the Olympics that brought a lump to my throat was when the IOC Chair was speaking in the opening ceremony about this being the first Olympics where women were fully represented. The roar of approval from the crowd took me completely by surprise. To hear my fellow citizens cheering for gender equality was hugely moving.

Anita // Posted 2 August 2012 at 7:18 pm

That women are being fully represented is wonderful in itself but there must be a special mention to those brave women from Saudi Arabia who are walking in the parade and competing for their country whilst being called the most appalling things on the internet and elsewhere by some of the very people they are competing for.

Their presence has drawn massive support as well but still it must be incredibly hard to compete at such a level with that kind of added pressure.

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