Women have come a long way since the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 when Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, forbade female participation because it would be “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect.” Come again, Pierre?! Ever since, fearless female athletes have been proving de Coubertin’s sexism irrelevant and just plain wrong. Despite his yammering, women competed in the Olympics for the first time just four years later at the 1900 Paris Games, where they won medals in the first two events open to women, lawn tennis, and golf. Excuse me while I think still think is really freaking awesome 100 years later, because it is.
Though you might know that little bit of Olympics history (I’m sure that’s a Trivial Pursuit question or something), what you may find surprising is that certain Olympic events have remained closed to women until very recently. Women were allowed to compete in weightlifting for the first time in 2000, and the upcoming games in London will be the very first games in which women’s boxing is offered. The introduction of women’s boxing is quite an exciting milestone. It means that for the first time all Olympic sports will include events for women. To celebrate this rather… Olympic achievement and to honor the amazing female athletes who have gotten us there, I present to you four members of Team USA, telling you about themselves and where they find motivation. Keep your eyes out for these women when the games open in July–I have a feeling these are inspiring women you will want to remember. (Cheer them on this summer–they’ve ALL made the Olympic team!)
EVELYN STEVENS, CYCLING: “I CRASHED EVERY DAY, AND THEN SOMETHING SWITCHED IN MY HEAD.”
How incredible are they? If you’re craving even more inspiration after watching the vids, check out the project all these women are a part of, Team USA’s Raise Our Flag project. It allows you to buy a stitch the American flag for the 2012 Games (while also providing house, training, and equipment for Team USA athletes- pretty cool!). And whether you choose to donate or not, there are more awesome athlete testimonials. Plus, they just hit 20,000 stitches, so kudos to them!
And one more thing: I’ve got some more Olympics regarding gender equality flying under the radar: Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia, three Muslim countries that have previously refrained from sending female athletes to the Olympics for cultural and religious reasons, reportedly plan on sending them for the first time this summer. Rock on, ladies.