Sunday, 24 February 2013

Females in Sport

Hi Guys & Girls.

Those of you that follow the UFC will know that a major event took place last night.
For those of you that don't, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the worlds biggest Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) organisation.  It was started in the early 90's as a way to settle the argument as to which was the world's best and most effective martial art.  Any style of fighting can be used and there are few rules.

MMA is considered the world's fastest growing sport and while other, smaller organisations, have hosted female bouts, until last night the UFC never had and I have to admit that until then I had never watched one.

Last night marked the first ever female fight in the UFC between Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche.

The standard of fighting was great, these are top level athletes: Rousey is a 2x Olympian, winning a Bronze medal in Judo at Beijing and Carmouche, while relatively new to mma, is a former US Marine.

This wasn't presented as a cute exhibition, but a serious competition and I hope that it is the start of many more such changes in sport in general.  In my opinion female divisions being included in the UFC and MMA in general, is long overdue.

The disparity of opportunities between male and female athletes is disgraceful.
To say that female athletes, who are just as dedicated and skilled in their sports as their male counterparts, are over-shadowed is an understatement.  In many organisations they aren't even given the opportunity to compete at the highest levels. I can think of no reason that this can be justified.

I was in the crowd at London 2012 when Gemma Gibbons won her Silver medal in Judo and watched the excitement the next day at my home club of Camberley as Karina Bryant (from the same club) won Bronze.  Judo has been an Olympic sport since 1964 but female Judoka had to wait until 1992 before they could even compete as Olympians in the sport that they had dedicated their lives to.
In 2012 Bryant and Gibbons were the only two members of Team GB to win medals in Judo.

At Camberley Judo Club I have watched many of the full time athletes there (male and female) train harder than most people will ever be able to imagine.  Training multiple times a day, often while holding down jobs and living on site in less than desirable conditions.  I find it infuriating to think that other athletes around the world who similarly train tirelessly for their particular sport may be denied the opportunity to compete at the highest levels on the seemingly arbitrary basis of their gender.

I am going to pick on the Olympics here because they are promoted as a display of unity and sporting equality, where almost every nation in the world comes together, puts aside differences and disputes to engage in the passion of sport.
How hypocritical then, that over the years so many athletes have been denied the opportunity to compete at the games simply because they are female.  Here are some examples of when various sports were introduced and then when women finally were able to compete.

Swimming: Men - since 1896, Women - since 1912
Gymnastics: Men - since 1896, Women - since 1928
Rowing: Men - since 1900, Women - since 1976
Cycling: Men - since 1896, Women - since 1984
Football: Men - since 1896, Women - since 1996
Weightlifting: Men - since 1896, Women - since 2000
Boxing: Men - since 1904, Women - since 2012

As I talked to people leading up to the UFC event last night many people still referred to it as: 'That chick fight' however when the fight started the reception it received in the bar that I watched it in was just as reverent and respectful as for any of the male fights on the card.  Long may this continue, hopefully this is just the next step in greater athletic equality.

Train hard, live happy

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