Victory for women athletes in London and heartbreak of oneBy Haide Acuna
Cebu Daily News
For the first time ever in the history of the Olympics, each of the 205 nations participating in the 2012 Summer Games have at least one woman athlete in its team.
This sea of change for gender equality in sports was made possible after the conservative Islamic state of Saudi Arabia the last holdout on female participation in the Olympics, in a last minute turnaround, allowed Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani to compete in judo and Sarah Attar in the 800-meter run.
In the first modern-day Olympics in 1896, women were absolutely barred from competition. At the centennial year of the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996, 26 of the 197 participating nations did not have female athletes in its team. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, only three countries – Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia did not have female Olympians.
While this may be a victory for women athletes everywhere, the work does not end here. Genuine reform in the inclusion of women athletes remain to be a challenge especially in conservative Islamic countries where competitive sports for women are strictly regulated if not totally banned as a matter of state policy.
Shooting for Two
One of the female athletes making headlines at the London Olympics is Malaysian sharpshooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi. This 29-year old first-time Olympian and the first woman to represent Malaysia in shooting is eight months pregnant.
Nur Suryani has been shooting since the age of 14 and won a shooting gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in 2010. In January this year, she qualified for the Olympics and will be competing in the 10-meter air rifle shooting event. A few days later she learned that she was pregnant but continued to train despite her growing belly and delicate condition.
Nur Suryani failed to secure a berth at the 10-meter air rifle shooting final after placing 34th out of 56 competitors. Despite her defeat, she described competing at the 30th Olympiad as a dream come true. Nur Suryani, in a BBC interview vowed to continue even after giving birth in September. “I will still carry on because this is already my life. What I’ve heard is that a mother after delivery has fresh blood so they can perform better, I believe. That’s the luck of being a woman.”
World’s fastest female marathoner drops out of London 2012
In 1994 British marathoner Paula Radcliffe was diagnosed with a degenerative and damaged left foot due to osteoarthritis and was told she would never run again. Still she moved on to become a world champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
In 2002, Radcliffe shifted to the marathon and in her first London Marathon in 2002 clocked 2:18:55. Later that year, she broke the female marathon world record at the Chicago Marathon at 2:17:18. In 2003, Radcliffe again reset the female marathon world record to 2:15:25 at the London marathon. Nine years later, Paula Radcliffe’s record still stands and remains unchallenged.
But while Radcliffe may be the fastest and greatest female marathoner alive, she hasn’t won a single Olympic medal. This after her dramatic meltdown just four miles from the finishline in Athens in 2004 and her dismal 23rd place finish in Beijing in 2008.
At 38 years old, Radcliffe was hoping to cap her illustrious career with that elusive Olympic medal on the streets of London where she has run unbeaten in front of her countrymen and women. But the Olympic gods, it seems, has no regard for world records and reputation as Radcliffe’s injury in her left foot recurred snatching yet again her dreams of Olympic gold.
In a statement released Sunday, Radcliffe’s heartbreak over her cruel fate is palpable.
“My sport is a beautiful sport, it gives so much fun and enjoyment, I believe helps me to be a better person and I have been very fortunate to experience some great success and have so many beautiful and happy memories. However, the downside is that it can break your heart and spirit many times over when your body is simply unable to match what your heart and brain want it to do. However hard today is, finally closing the door on that dream, at least I can know that I truly have tried absolutely everything. I have been through the mill emotionally and physically the past three weeks, cried more tears than ever, vented more frustration and, at the same time, calmly tried every direction and avenue available to heal myself. Now is the time to rest totally, give my body chance to recover and assess calmly what can be done and where I go from here.”