Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Inspiring Women of the 2016 Olympics

This year's summer Olympics in Rio have been an exciting event. There have been several world records broken. There was tons of controversy around the location of the event, around the competitors, and around commentator's wordings and newspaper's headlines. There has been a lot of talk of sexism surround the Olympics, and while we must fight to break stereotypes and taboos of women in sports, we must also celebrate what women have done thus far. In fact, this year's Olympics had more female competitors than any other Olympic games in history--45% of competitors this year were women, compared with 2.2% in 1900. Several events, such as weightlifting, shooting, and rugby, haven't even always allowed women to compete. As the years go on, women are proving more and more that they are more than just pretty appearances and quiet homemakers. The women in this year's Olympics are strong, both physically and emotionally, and extremely motivating. Young girls everywhere are looking up to these women. Who are some of these amazing women we should be looking up to? Here's just a few...

Fu Yuanhui

20 years old, China
Won Bronze in 100-m backstroke
Came in 4th in women's 4x100 meter medley relay.
Yuanhui is very open and straightforward, making her an instant sensation during all of the Olympic coverage. She has blown up on sites like Imgur, where there are tons of pictures and gifs of her entertaining facial expressions. Recently, Yuanhui mentioned that she believed her period had negatively affected her performance, making a lot of Chinese people realize that periods are not dirty. As far as sex education goes, China is still kind of behind in their beliefs. A 2015 survey found that 2% of Chinese women use tampons. As a matter of fact, China will be launching it's first tampon brand this year. The most populated country in the world didn't have their own tampon brand! Women everywhere are thrilled with Yuanhui's bluntness, saying she is breaking taboos and removing a shame and negative stigma around periods that women have always dealt with in sports.
"I want go back in time, to when I almost gave up, to tell myself that that all of the hardship is worth it. Even though I didn’t win 1st place today, I’ve already surpassed myself and I am happy with that," Fu Yuanhui.

Corey Cogdell

29 years old, USA
Won Bronze in Women's Trap Shooting. This is her third Olympic games for the US. She has been shooting competitively for 15 years, and has also won a Gold and two Bronze medals from the U.S. National Shooting Championship.
There was a bit of public outrage after the Chicago Tribune posted an article without her name, stating that the 'Wife of Bear's Lineman won Bronze.' Cogdell is married to Chicago Bears player Mitch Unrein. The Tribune has since changed the headline to include Cogdell's name. A picture on Twitter shows the entire Chicago Bear's team wearing shirts that say "Team Unrein" in support of her Olympic appearance this year.
"I’m used to living with my husband’s fame, and he’s used to living with mine. So depending on the situation, sometimes I’m the center focus, and sometimes he’s the center focus."--Corey Cogdell

Sarah Robles
28 years old, USA
Robles is an American Weightlifter. Before the 2012 Olympics, Robles was living on $400 a month, despite being the highest-ranked weightlifter in the US. She once said, "You can get that sponsorship if you're a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini. But not if you're a girl who's built like a guy." She is around 300 lbs, which is larger than most Olympic athletes people are used to seeing. She also struggles with Madelung's Deformity, which is a condition where her radius (a bone in the forearm) is shorter than average and bowed. It causes pain while lifting, but she powers through. 
She won Bronze in the Women's over 75kg by lifting 286kg (630.5lbs).
She is the first American weightlifter to win an Olympic medal since 2000.
After winning, she said on her Instagram page that she would celebrate with, "a protein shake and a call to grandma."
"I think what happened tonight is a phenomenal thing," Robles said. "It's a great thing for weightlifting as a sport. It's a great thing for women. It's a great thing for women of size."--Sarah Robles

Gabby Douglas

20 years old, USA
Won Gold in Women's Team All-Around.
"Gabrielle is the first woman of color of any nationality and the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around Champion. She is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the gymnastic individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic games."-From Douglas' bio on her website.
Douglas is a role-model for young African American girls everywhere. Douglas' mother, Natalie Hawkins, fought long and hard as a single mother to provide a good life for her four children. Hawkins was a single mother who even had the family living in a van for a year. Lifetime made a docudrama called 'The Gabby Douglas Story' in 2013, and earlier this year, an Oxygen reality show called 'Douglas Family Gold' aired. Douglas has worked against the odds with her family to not only escape homelessness, but also to make history in the Olympics.
“Just to keep fighting. Be slow to speak. Just to really shine bright in everything you do," Gabby Douglas

Simone Biles

19 Years Old, USA
Has won four Gold medals so far (Vault, Women's Team All-Around, Individual All-Around and Women's Floor Exercise), and one Bronze. Biles has become almost a household name during this year's coverage, which has lead to tons of comparisons to other well-known Olympic athletes. 
Articles everywhere describe Biles' moves as gravity-defying moves that push the limits of physics. Her short statue and extreme strength help her to pull off her moves. Her signature move is 'The Biles'--a double layout with a half-twist and a blind landing. A layout includes flying through the air with the body completely outstretched, and it is absolutely fascinating to watch.
Biles' was adopted by her grandparents at the age of five. An announcer on NBC refused to acknowledge Biles' parents as such, saying that they are her grandfather and his wife--not her actual parents. He has since apologized.
“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,” she said. “I’m the first Simone Biles.” --Simone Biles

Simone Manuel

20 years old, USA
Has won two Gold (Women's 100m Freestyle & Women's 4x100m Medley Relay) and two Silver (Women's 50m Freestyle & Women's 4x100m Freestyle Relay).
Manuel was the first African American to win a Gold medal in swimming. Manuel is proud of her medals, saying that she believes they help diverse and bring awareness to the sport.
"I mean, I didn't have that many people to look up to when I was younger so hopefully it inspires other African Americans to get involved in the sport."--Simone Manuel

Aly Raisman

22 years old, USA
Raisman is the Captain of the USA Women's Olympic Team and has won one gold for the women's team all-around, as well as silver in floor exercise and individual all-around. Her and Gabby Douglas are the only American women to earn back to back gold medals. She took a year off before returning to the sport, and is now doing better than ever before. She has one of the best Olympic resumes of any American gymnast, tied for second with two other previous gymnasts for most decorated of all time.
“I knew that the gold was out of the question so the silver for me genuinely feels like the gold medal. I feel like I’m better than I am in 2012, so I’m very proud of that.”--Aly Raisman

Katinka Hosszu

27 years old, Hungary
Hosszu broke a world record in the 400 meter individual medley and got gold--touching the wall after 30.29 seconds. She also won two other gold medals in 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley. She also received Silver in the 200m backstroke.
People were unhappy with the fact that when Hosszu won gold, commentators gave credit to her husband by filming him and saying, "there's the person responsible for her performance." This article even mentions the situation, and then goes on to talk about the couple's relationship. But there is so much more to her than her relationship. People have questioned Hosszu's performances, questioning whether or not she was on performance enhancing drugs. She has never tested positive for any drugs. Hosszu's nickname is 'The Iron Lady,' which she received after competing in Beijing and winning five medals in eight events. Chinese media said she was made of iron, which then led to the nickname.
"[...] I’m just going to have fun and I’m just going to basically get up on the block and just have a fun race," said Hosszu.

Katie Ledecky

19 years old, USA
The youngest member of the USA team, she has won four gold medals--the 200m, 400m, and 800m freestyles and the 4x200 freestyle relay. She has also won Silver in the Women's 4x100m freestyle relay. It took her eight minutes and 4.79 seconds to complete the 800m freestyle--beating the previous world record of  eight minutes and 6.68 seconds. Despite experts saying Ledecky could have made nearly a million dollars by accepting sponsorships, she is turning it all away to attend Standford. She will swim in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) for at least one season. She may be done for now, but there is a chance she will compete again in the Tokyo Olympics, as she will only be 23 years old.
“The memories mean a lot more to me than the medals,” she said, beginning to choke up, “and these past three years have been incredible.”-Katie Ledecky

Penny Oleksiak

16 years old, Canada
She received one gold in the 100m freestyle, as well as one Silver (100m butterfly) and two Bronze (4x 100m freestyle relay & 4x200 freestyle relay). She is the youngest Canadian to win a gold medal at the Olympics and the first to win four in the Summer games. She is 16 and making records and getting Gold medals, yet she is still super excited to leave Rio and go home so that she can play Pokemon Go.
"I just want to get home and see my friends, see my dog, catch some Pokemon," she told the hosts. "I just crossed off the gold medal at the Olympics... so I gotta do the Pokemon."--Penny Oleksiak

Oksana Chusovitina

41 years old, Uzbekistan
This is Chusovitina's SEVENTH visit to the Olympics. And she is 41!! She won a gold medal while on the Soviet Union's team at the age of thirteen (for anyone who doesn't know--the Soviet Union doesn't even exist anymore). She won gold before some of her teammates were even born, and even has a son that is older than a few of them. This past Sunday, she competed in Vault. The average age her competitors was 20, which means she is double the age of most of them. Even Simone Biles said that the fact that Chusovitina is still competing is amazing, and that she wouldn't be continuing to be an Olympic star into her 30's and 40's. One of the vaults she attempted was called "the vault of death." She unfortunately didn't land it, but the fact that she did an insanely difficult move that her younger counterparts wouldn't attempt at half her age is just nothing short of incredibly impressive. She has said that her age compared to others doesn't bother her, because she loves the sport and performing for the public and her fans.
""When I compete, if they gave a few more marks for age it would have been great. Otherwise, we're all equal and we just have to compete with each other as equals."--Oksana Chusovitina

Of course, with nearly 5,000 female competitors in this year's games, not all or even most are listed here. Some names have definitely been spoken more than others, and these are just the ones I've heard the most. But there are thousands more women winning medals and kicking ass in these games, and if you have the time, read up on a few. Let them be the voice of their countries and rolemodels to young girls and grown women everywhere. I know they have motivated me with their strength and perseverance. Congratulations and excellent work to all competitors of this year's Olympic games. 

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