Women’s sport sidelined by news media
– Liz King is director of the triathlon website www.TriSpiritEvents.com, and a triathlete with 25 years’ experience, who has raced six Ironman triathlons so far. The opinions expressed are her own. Reuters is hosting a “follow-the-sun” live blog on Monday, March 8, 2010, International Women’s Day. –
Wow, Wellington! You may think I am referring to the city on New Zealand’s north island, about which most people have heard. But no, I am referring to Chrissie Wellington, three times world Ironman triathlon champion. And guess what? She is British.
For those who do not know what Ironman triathlon is, here is a quick resume. Ironman is an extreme version of triathlon, where you first swim 2.4 miles, then cycle 112 miles, then finish off with a full marathon of 26.2 miles. All within 17 hours. No, none of those are typos.
The ever-smiling Chrissie is the world champion in this event, and the current world record holder too. She has completed this feat in 8 hours, 31 minutes, 59 seconds. So, as I said, wow! She was quite rightly voted the Sunday Times Sportswoman Of The Year in 2009.
I recently met her – her trademark smile still on show – and she was giving me some tips on getting over jetlag before we headed off to New Zealand – where I am as I write – having competed in Ironman New Zealand this weekend. This is an amazing event with faultless organisation, and incredible support from the local community in Taupo.
The whole town got involved, with around 10 per cent of the community volunteering to help us athletes who take on this event. That means there are 2,200 volunteers for just under 1,300 competitors – nearly two to one, and boy do they make a difference.
Thing is, can you imagine this happening on this scale in the football and cricket obsessed UK? Funny, you probably didn’t even realise there was an Ironman UK, did you? That is because it gets almost zero coverage. But that seems to be the lot of what some people would term ‘fringe’ sports in the UK.
To that, I would like to say two things: check out women’s cricket, and women’s football.
Did you know, for example, that the England women’s cricket team cleaned up last year, winning the World Cup, the Twenty20 series, and the Ashes?
What about football – did you know that England won an international trophy in 2009? Not the men, the women.
The England senior team won the Cyprus Women’s Cup, beating Canada in the final to win their first international trophy. There was a pretty decent-sized piece in The Daily Telegraph on this success, but little else of note, despite pages every day being devoted to our beautiful – men’s – game.
Women taking part in sport can be frowned upon, with a recent eye-opening comment being made to me about encouraging young women to cycle in Birmingham. Apparently, it would be more appealing if there were hair-straighteners in the changing rooms. OK, we all want to look good, but getting sweaty and getting fit is all part of that.
So what are you waiting for girls? Get out there, get moving – and let’s encourage the people who can do something about it to get more women’s sports coverage in the media. The more we ask for it, the more there will be.