For the first time in Olympic history all the participating teams will have female athletes
August 8, 2012 6:30 AM   Subscribe

The London Olympics has been billed as a notable step forward in gender equality. It is the first Olympics with female representation from all countries despite the many and several barriers to female sport participation that still exist in some countries (including developed ones). These Olympics have female boxers, female athletes from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei and male medal bearers But despite Jacques Rogge's declaration in his opening ceremony speech, some are more equal than others. Australia and Japan are reviewing their athletes' travel arrangements after women were given second class tickets and there is a small, but growing campaign to see male synchronised swimming form part of the program (one of two sports, the other being rhythmic gymnastics, with no male competition).

The challenge after the games will be maintaining the momentum for female sports once the cameras switch off, the media coverage moves on and the sponsors renew deals. The discrepancy is arguably most stark in earnings: precisely 2 of the top 100 highest earning sports stars are women - Maria Sharapova and Li Na.

Previously, and previously and previously.
posted by MuffinMan (101 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Women, a great bunch of lads.
posted by Damienmce at 6:39 AM on August 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


i just really love the women's boxing. that's all.
posted by goneill at 6:46 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


How bizarre. Not that travel arrangements should be decided by sporting performance, but Japan's women's football/soccer team is one of the best in women's football. The Australian women's basketball team is also a pretty big deal. In fact, their captain, Lauren Jackson, was Australia's flag bearer at this year's opening ceremony.
posted by quosimosaur at 6:49 AM on August 8, 2012


Mentioned (obviously) in the article, but for reference: I'm not.. I'm not that strong a swimmer.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:55 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


So how about all the events where the men wear shorts and the women wear glorified panties?

When those finally get "equal" whose going to put on whose outfits? Personally, I'm voting for shorts for all.
posted by trackofalljades at 7:07 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


So how about all the events where the men wear shorts and the women wear glorified panties?

Watching the men's gymnastics last night, my wife asked, "Why do the men have to wear pants?" I gave her the old crook eye and said, "Well, otherwise their flopping junk would get in the way." Of course, she meant "as opposed to leotards", but it gave me my yuks for the evening.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:12 AM on August 8, 2012


BBC profile of India's Mary Kom, a female boxer who had to hide her passion from her family.
"For the past four or five years, there's been so many negative things. The boys they are laughing. 'Oh you are boxing, very funny'. But I always challenge when people are laughing - 'I'll show you one day'.

"After getting five times world champion, they are all quiet. And they respect me.

"Without boxing, I can't live," she says. "I love boxing."
Thursday will see a woman win an Olympic gold medal for boxing for the first time in history. I'm excited.
posted by fight or flight at 7:12 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would love to see men's synchro and artistic gymnastics in the games.
posted by Kurichina at 7:16 AM on August 8, 2012


We could make the Olympics equal by not having an Olympics.
Just saying'
posted by Mezentian at 7:16 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was reading the other day that at the national level, a lot of synchronized swimming teams are mixed-gender and the (relatively few) men who want to participate just swim with the women. I gather a lot of people get into synchro in high school, where there are often women's teams sponsored by the high schools, and boys who want to participate just do so with the girls (as girls who want to play football or wrestle do with the boys). I don't really see why mixed-gender teams shouldn't be allowed in the Olympics; apparently at the national level scoring works out just fine for the men and women to be in the same system.

"So how about all the events where the men wear shorts and the women wear glorified panties?"

Beach volleyball just changed the rules so women can wear more clothing, but I think a lot of the players realize that sex appeal sells tickets and buys sponsors, based on how they dance around the issue in interviews.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:17 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I (a straight male) am still really uncomfortable with the clothing that they women wear in some events (beach volley ball and track). I've seen some runners wear more covering clothing so it kind of suggests that they wear the extra skimpy stuff by choice. I suppose that if my body was in as good of shape as some of those athletes, I'd want to show it off too (or maybe it's functional in some way I don't understand?). The bikinis they wear in beach volley ball, however, have rules around how much they can cover and that pisses me off.
posted by VTX at 7:17 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


So how about all the events where the men wear shorts and the women wear glorified panties?

Yeah, does someone need an anatomy lesson?
posted by hermitosis at 7:17 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Men should have the same right as women to compete in very silly sports.
posted by mightygodking at 7:24 AM on August 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Beach volleyball just changed the rules so women can wear more clothing, but I think a lot of the players realize that sex appeal sells tickets and buys sponsors, based on how they dance around the issue in interviews.

I didn't know Sepp Blatter ran the volleyball. Though, seriously, it's pretty revolting that they were forcing the women to wear so little clothing.
posted by hoyland at 7:24 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please - Say NO to Mens Synchronized Swimming.
posted by Flood at 7:31 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why?
posted by hermitosis at 7:35 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


to see male synchronised swimming form part of the program (one of two sports, the other being rhythmic gymnastics, with no male competition

Question: Is there an established body of male athletes who perform in these disciplines? The best way to get a sport into the Olympics is to make sure there are enough countries with enough meaningful competitors to make an international competition worth having.

I'm not asking to be snarky -- I honestly don't know. If there are well established Men's rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming, then there should be international competition, including at the olympics. But if there isn't, there shouldn't be these competitions at the olympics just for the sake of perceived equality.

Otherwise, I want to see female gymnasts on the rings and male gymnast on the uneven parallel bars. Which is silly -- the male gymnasts perform on equipment that stresses upper body strength, the women perform on equipment that stresses balance and flexibility.
posted by eriko at 7:36 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


So how about all the events where the men wear shorts and the women wear glorified panties?

Other than Beach Volleyball, that's the choice of the competitor. I don't know why many women have chosen to wear that style, but it is their choice, and there are a number of competitors that wear clothing that's basically identical to the men's gear.

Overall, athletic clothing has become much skimpier, because there's a decided performance advantage into not lugging around extra clothing, better cooling of the body without layers, no clothing interfering with the athlete, and so on.

Also related -- the very different body shape of a women. Maybe having the hemline above the hips is more comfortable for the female athlete. I don't personally know, because I'm a large guy.

Of course, you'll find men wearing much less in swimming, and I suspect that in gymnastics, where many of the ladies had full coverage tops with long sleeves, that the men were actually showing much more skin (as a percentage of body) than the women.

At least this year, they let the women's beach volleyball sides wear clothing if they chose to, but only because "summer" is a funny word in London. I did finally figure out why many of the sides were wearing bikini tops over other tops, which looked odd -- they didn't have anything else with the number/name/country on them. The US did, so they'd wear long sleeved tops, if needed. If you want to complain about this issue, this is the sport to really lean against -- in 1999, FIVB mandated swimsuits for competitors, but allowed tops for the men (sun protection.) However, women are explicitly allowed to wear shorts or a one piece. Why they choose to wear bikinis, I don't know, and a couple of players (Holly McCook being one) have said "Swimsuits are pretty much what you wear when you are playing on the beach, right?" Between the sand and sun, there might be a point there.

Part of the uniform difference is society -- generally, we don't accept uncovered female breast. You can argue that's wrong, but the Olympics is just responding to that, so the place to change it is in society itself, then the Olympics will correct itself to conform.

Part is mechanics -- if you have large breasts, you will take measures to keep them from harm and interfering with play or you'll hurt like heck afterwards, according to several ladies I have talked to.

And part, of course, is tradition -- nobody jumped directly from the long flowing skirts of the early 1950s figure skating to the modern short ones. Uniforms evolve slowly, and do so everywhere -- there is now a generation of baseball players who don't wear stirrup and sanitary socks, and somehow, that make me a little sad.
posted by eriko at 7:40 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting. Knowing nothing about any of the sports beforehand, I thought it looked like women actually had the upper hand when it came to their outfits, being able to choose to go much skimpier than the men.
posted by that's how you get ants at 7:48 AM on August 8, 2012


But if there isn't, there shouldn't be these competitions at the olympics just for the sake of perceived equality.

Amen!!!

I mean yeah, we could have men on balance beam, but why? Their center of gravity is higher (and they might be afraid of those scissors moves), and it wouldn't be as interesting or competitive. Same things for women and rings...what's the point?
posted by Melismata at 7:49 AM on August 8, 2012


More sports, less dancing.
posted by rocket88 at 7:51 AM on August 8, 2012


[..] and it wouldn't be as interesting or competitive.

Isn't that pretty much what people said about women's boxing?
posted by MuffinMan at 7:54 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Men's synchro makes it in, Martin Short and Harry Shearer were just a few decades short of making the Olympics. "I don't swim"
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:00 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was surprised to learn that the original synchronized swimming teams in the Olympics were all men, and gradually migrated to all women. Backlash Backsplash, maybe?
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:05 AM on August 8, 2012


it's pretty revolting that they were forcing the women to wear so little clothing.

On preview, eriko said what I wanted to say much better than I was planning to say it. Let's make sure we know how much flexibility they have before we say they're "forced" to wear anything. I know female rowers often just train in sports bras because why be dragging extra weight that might impede your movements when you don't have to.

The way the sport is shown on the other hand, is total fair game for criticism. But that speaks to the point that in many cases, its the viewers and media that are sexualizing the athletes, not the athletes themselves or the organizing bodies of the various sports.
posted by dry white toast at 8:06 AM on August 8, 2012


I saw it said that Olympic shooting was a mixed competition until a woman won gold in Barcelona, after which they set up separate men's and women's competitions. I think it would be a good idea to go back to mixed competition next Olympics.
posted by Azara at 8:12 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't that pretty much what people said about women's boxing?

But women wanted to box and demanded it, so it because a recognized sport. I don't see a lot of men clamoring for rhythmic gymnastics or women for rings.
posted by Melismata at 8:14 AM on August 8, 2012


The IOC gets a lot of criticism, much of it deserved, but props to them that they arm-twisted the Saudis into (grudgingly) sending their first women competitors ( IOC said send them or Saudi Arabia doesn't get to compete at all)
posted by Bwithh at 8:17 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, in Canada, after the women's soccer team's heartbreaking loss to the US in the semi-finals, the consensus amongst the sports cognoscenti is that forward Christine Sinclair put on a performance for the ages, on par with (and in my opinion exceeding) Canada's greatest male athletes like Sidney Crosby and Steve Nash. The match was certainly the best soccer game I've ever seen, and as far as I'm concerned, Sinclair should be a superstar in Canada.

To say nothing of the fact that the women put male footballers to absolute shame with their toughness. Desiree Scott of Canada stayed in the game after a brutal knee on knee collision in which her knee basically went backwards. Oh, and New Zealand's keeper stayed in the game after this happened. With all the diving and writhing that happens in men's soccer, I honestly want to punch anyone who says women aren't as competitive as men.
posted by dry white toast at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Other than Beach Volleyball, that's the choice of the competitor

The Beach Volleyball teams have a choice too, the women dont have to wear bikinis, though most prefer to. They can wear all or part of their cold weather gear ( which covers almost everything) for modesty reasons - its an official thing.
posted by Bwithh at 8:22 AM on August 8, 2012


"That leaves Shields, a 17-year-old high school student from Flint, Mich., and the youngest fighting in London, as the only American still boxing. She'll face Russia's Nadesda Torlopova in Thursday's final.

"I'm not dreaming. It's real," Shields said of her chances at a gold medal. "It's right here. All I have to do is grab it."
posted by clavdivs at 8:22 AM on August 8, 2012


I was surprised to learn that the original synchronized swimming teams in the Olympics were all men, and gradually migrated to all women. Backlash Backsplash, maybe?

I was surprised to learn that the original synchronized swimming water ballet teams in the Olympics International Sports Games held in Berlin in 1891 were all men, and gradually migrated to all women. Backlash Backsplash, maybe?

FTFM.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:27 AM on August 8, 2012


Yes, men compete in rhythmic gymnastics - and may do so in the Olympics eventually, though right now the governing body of gymnastics doesn't recognize them. They use two rings instead of a hoop and a staff instead of a ribbon, btw.
posted by Wylla at 8:28 AM on August 8, 2012


Yes, can people stop repeating the misinformation about women's beach volleyball players being forced to wear bikinis? That used to be true but the rules were changed. Every beach volleyball player you see wearing a skimpy bikini is now wearing it because she wants to. They've repeatedly said it's what they're most comfortable with given this is a beach sport usually played on the beach. In beach wear.

Also, I propose that we make synchronized swimming equal by eliminating synchronized swimming. Dumbest Olympic sport.
posted by Justinian at 8:30 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bwithh: The Beach Volleyball teams have a choice too, the women dont have to wear bikinis, though most prefer to.

It's important to note that freedom is only as of this year. Women may still choose to wear bikinis as they get used to the rules change, but it's a little early to call either way. It's not surprising that few women chose to change the kit they've been practicing in for years at the last second.
posted by gilrain at 8:32 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just because you think it's dumb doesn't mean that it is dumb or not a sport.
posted by troika at 8:33 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Justinian: Also, I propose that we make synchronized swimming equal by eliminating synchronized swimming. Dumbest Olympic sport.

Hey there. Just wanted to let you know that your favorite ultimately-pointless human behavior is the dumbest of the ultimately-pointless human behaviors.
posted by gilrain at 8:34 AM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I didn't say I thought it wasn't a sport, I said I thought it was dumb. Because it's synchronized swimming.

Except for the Darling Mermaid Darlings, of course. They were superb.
posted by Justinian at 8:35 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just a quick note regarding men's gymnastics attire: the long stretchy pants are worn to give them a long, fluid, lean look on the apparatus--those feetie pajama pants are supposed to make the performance look better. Although for that poor US guy who caught his hand on his pants on the pommel horse...he might be rethinking his attire next time around.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:36 AM on August 8, 2012


Women will be able to compete in ski jumping at the Olympics beginning in 2014. They weren't allowed before, because there were allegedly not enough athletes to make a competitive field. and also because “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”
posted by rtha at 8:37 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I watched the USA/Canada Women's soccer game, and I agree it was hands down the best soccer game this non-fan has ever seen. For the first time ever, i understood what people see in the sport. I was yelling and clapping so much that my wife came in to see what I was watching. "Please don't have a heart attack over a women's soccer game," she said.

And anyone complaining about women wearing more revealing uniforms than men have clearly not been watching Greco-Roman Package Wrestling, or the 200 Meter Dick Swing. It cuts both ways.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:37 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is actually still one sport in which women don't compete at the olympics - greco-roman wrestling (women only do freestyle). Women also have fewer classes in freestyle wrestling and boxing.

In 2014 in Sochi, women will have their first Olympic ski jumping competition.
posted by Wylla at 8:38 AM on August 8, 2012


Sorry, RTHA, slow on preview.
posted by Wylla at 8:40 AM on August 8, 2012


Yeah, the USA-Canada soccer game was brilliant. The idea that Canada only lost because of the officiating is ridiculous. Yeah, there was a questionable call. But they gave up 4 goals. A questionable call does not give the other team 4 goals including one in stoppage time of the second overtime period.
posted by Justinian at 8:41 AM on August 8, 2012


Women will be able to compete in ski jumping at the Olympics beginning in 2014. They weren't allowed before, because there were allegedly not enough athletes to make a competitive field. and also because “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”

What, are their uteri going to get dislodged when they land or something?
posted by madcaptenor at 8:42 AM on August 8, 2012


it's pretty revolting that they were forcing the women to wear so little clothing.

Maybe they're wearing as little clothing as possible because it can get crazy crazy hot and it's easier to move around in less constricting clothing?

(My first roller derby bout, I wore a t-shirt, knee-length shorts and tights. On Sunday I practiced in a sports bra and short shorts.)
posted by Lucinda at 8:44 AM on August 8, 2012


The issue that I have around the Beach Volleyball uniform requirements isn't so much that they're required to wear bikinis (and just this year have some other options) but that the SIZE of the bikinis is tightly regulated to keep them skimpy (see page 42 of this PDF).
posted by VTX at 8:45 AM on August 8, 2012


No, the size of the bikinis used to be tightly regulated. Yeah, that sucks. It was recently. But it's not true any more.
posted by Justinian at 8:46 AM on August 8, 2012


Great minds, Wylia.

What, are their uteri going to get dislodged when they land or something?

Nutty, right? The guy was the head of the International Ski Federation! Women have been flinging themselves down mountains and moguls under the auspices of his organization for a while now - you'd think he'd have been told if there were an epidemic of fallen-out uteruses (uteri?) littering the slopes, you know?
posted by rtha at 8:50 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's all fun and games until somebody loses a uterus.
posted by Justinian at 8:53 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


fallen-out uteruses (uteri?)

It's uteri. At least, Chrome's spell-checker doesn't like uteruses.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:53 AM on August 8, 2012


Women will be able to compete in ski jumping at the Olympics beginning in 2014. They weren't allowed before, because there were allegedly not enough athletes to make a competitive field. and also because “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”

What, are their uteri going to get dislodged when they land or something?


I think the IOC and the International Skiing Federation were just rightly pointing out that the mandatory bikini uniforms might have posed a risk of hypothermia.
posted by figurant at 8:53 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's all fun and games until somebody loses a uterus.

I once saw a movie about someone whose uterus drops out at the top of a ski jump. I think it was called Womb with a View.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:58 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regarding the question of why there is no men's balance beam: I was recently at a drafternoon with my brother and his GF, who seems to know quite a bit about all things sporting. She says the reason is that men's feet, on average, are quite a bit wider than women's and so ain't no way they're going to effectively compete on a four- inch beam. Also, men don't compete on the uneven bars due to their greater average height; they would have a much harder time not hitting the floor with their feet than a 5-foot tall woman.

I'm sure there's a lot more that went into developing the "traditional" male/female events, but hey, made sense to me!
posted by deep thought sunstar at 9:04 AM on August 8, 2012


I think it was called Womb with a View

Huh, so that's what it feels like when you want to simultaneously favourite and flag a comment.
posted by dry white toast at 9:04 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Female Gymnasts Used to Compete on the Rings, But the Game Changed (jezebel)
posted by armacy at 9:08 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


So why not just have a slightly wider beam for men than for women, or bars that can be moved up and down depending on the sex of the competitor?
posted by madcaptenor at 9:09 AM on August 8, 2012


And why not just keep on having events that recognize the differences between men's and women's bodies?
posted by Melismata at 9:17 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The issue that I have around the Beach Volleyball uniform requirements isn't so much that they're required to wear bikinis (and just this year have some other options) but that the SIZE of the bikinis is tightly regulated to keep them skimpy (see page 42 of this PDF).

Even in the PDF you link to, a 1-piece is allowed, and the bikini is not really that skimpy as bikinis go.

Torches go fire-up and pitchforks pointy-end-out, guys.
posted by fleacircus at 9:44 AM on August 8, 2012


Madcaptenor, I wondered that myself but like I said, that's not really an *exhaustive* list of reasons. I would think that historically became apparent that some events were such that female gymnasts tended to excel, and some tended to favor the men. I would also venture a theory that it's a continually evolving sport, and maybe someday we will see women on the parallel bars and men on the balance beam...? Personally I hope so.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 9:49 AM on August 8, 2012


Melismata: And why not just keep on having events that recognize the differences between men's and women's bodies?

Mostly because throughout history attempts to "recognize the difference" have led to rules preventing women from enjoying the same freedoms and privileges as men. That's made a lot of us wary of modern attempts to recognize the differences.

For instance, as has been mentioned this coming Winter Olympics will be the first in which we'll get to watch perfectly willing, competent, and capable women competing in ski jumping due to having previously been recognizing the damn differences.
posted by gilrain at 9:53 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


The piece basically just covers up the stomach and back. It still rides pretty high up on the thighs and lets lot ass show so I think it would still end up showing more skin than I'd be comfortable with.

I looked at the latest regulations I could find and didn't see any mention of what the uniforms have to look like, just that both players must wear the same color and style and that they have to conform to the rules of that specific tournament.

So it seems that the athletes are indeed wearing skimpy outfits by choice now. Progress!
posted by VTX at 10:00 AM on August 8, 2012


Well now that the female boxers are allowed to compete, the British press are trying to claim all the good ones for themselves again! :)

Go Katie!
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:06 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The (women only do freestyle) linked by Wylla has led me down the rabbit hole of the Telegraph's fantastic explanations of rules and customs and whatnot of various Olympic events. Thanks!
posted by rtha at 10:33 AM on August 8, 2012


Does anyone know why women run 100m hurdles and men run 110m hurdles? Something to do with average stride lengths, perhaps?
posted by yoink at 10:40 AM on August 8, 2012


Mostly because throughout history attempts to "recognize the difference" have led to rules preventing women from enjoying the same freedoms and privileges as men. That's made a lot of us wary of modern attempts to recognize the differences.

Right, and people should absolutely fight for the sports they want to play in. There's no question that our history in this department sucks, and I'm glad women are fighting to do the things they want to do. But we shouldn't force athletes who aren't all that interested in a sport to play something just because we're all the same, and should all think and be alike. "Perceived equality", as eriko said much more eloquently above.
posted by Melismata at 10:47 AM on August 8, 2012


But we shouldn't force athletes who aren't all that interested in a sport to play something just because we're all the same, and should all think and be alike.

I really don't think this is a problem.
posted by rtha at 10:49 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


And why not just keep on having events that recognize the differences between men's and women's bodies?

But the present set of events favours girls' bodies rather than women's bodies. If it wasn't for the age limit, 13 and 14 year old girls would still be winning gymnastic gold medals. Add in something like the rings, and adult women could stay in competition rather than being seen as past it.
posted by Azara at 10:49 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The videos on the Jezebel link are well worth watching! It's very interesting to see the early movies of female gymnasts doing essentially dance poses, and the development of the uneven bars as an apparatus and as a set of skills.

It's also interesting to see the different sort of strength the earlier gymnastics for women emphasized.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:56 AM on August 8, 2012


Mostly because throughout history attempts to "recognize the difference" have led to rules preventing women from enjoying the same freedoms and privileges as men. That's made a lot of us wary of modern attempts to recognize the differences.

Yes but by that logic, women should compete along with the men, not in seperate events.
posted by phaedon at 10:57 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


phaedon: Yes but by that logic, women should compete along with the men, not in seperate events.

No, not necessarily. I didn't say there should be no accounting at all for gender differences, just that the vast majority of rulings based on gender differences have been and are bullshit. I was replying to a stipulation the events be denied to a gender competing against themselves due to gender differences.

That is a silly idea. If there are enough competitors in a gender, and they're able, they should be allowed to compete. I can't think of any sport that either gender simply can't do based on their gender. There may be differences in how they do them, or even how well, but as they'll be competing against each other that simply doesn't matter.

Whether the genders should compete in events together is an entirely different subject, although an interesting one.
posted by gilrain at 11:16 AM on August 8, 2012


If it wasn't for the age limit, 13 and 14 year old girls would still be winning gymnastic gold medals.

When did they ever? I think you've been a little misled by the small frames of the gymnasts. No female olympic gymnastics medallists of the modern era have been that young. I think a few 14 year olds have competed (either through age falsification or through special exemption), but none have won gold. Quite a few of the gold medalists of the last few Olympics have been 19/20--and won competing against younger gymnasts.
posted by yoink at 11:29 AM on August 8, 2012


Um, Nadia Comaneci dominated the '76 Montreal Olympics at 14.
posted by phaedon at 11:39 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oops--sorry, I was misremembering Comaneci's age at the 76 Olympics--she was 14; but she's an outlier.

Ludmilla Tourischeva (winner of the individual all-around at the 72 Olympics) was 19.
Olga Korbut (the universal darling of the 72 Olympics) was 17.
Nadja Comaneci performed at the highest level (winning a silver in the all-around and some golds in individual events) at 17 in the 76 Olympics
Yelena Davydova (80 all-around gold) 19.
Mary-Lou Retton (84 all-around) 16.
Yelena Shushunova (88 all-around) 19.
Tatiana Gutsu (92 all-around) 15.
Lilia Podkopayeva (96 all-around) 18.
Simona Amânar (2000 all-around) 20.
Carly Patterson (04 all-around) 16.
Nastia Liukin (08 all-around) 18.
posted by yoink at 11:41 AM on August 8, 2012


Um, Nadia Comaneci dominated the '76 Montreal Olympics at 14.

Yep--but even including her, the average age of Olympic gymnast all-around medalists in the modern era (72 onward) is 17.4. There has never been a time when it was a sport dominated by 13 and 14 year olds. Nadia Comaneci is an exceptional case--not a norm from which we've been saved by an artificial age limit.
posted by yoink at 11:48 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not the Olympic-level, but a lot of the gymnasts on that list had been dominating their national competitions beginning when they were 14/15. All the women's gymnastics medalists at the '84 Olympics were 16 or under, for instance.
posted by rtha at 11:51 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_requirements_in_gymnastics

"The average age of an international gymnast was 18.10 years in 2005. In contrast, in 1994, before the new age requirements (gymnasts must turn 16 in the year of competition), it was 16.49, and in 1989, gymnasts who had reached the age of 17 were already often considered to be of retirement age.
...
Age falsification is the practice of advancing gymnasts' ages to make them age-eligible for senior-level competition. Reports of age falsification among top-level international gymnasts first began to surface in the 1980s, after the age limit was raised from 14 to 15.
...
According to many scientific and medical studies, as well as reports from ex-gymnasts, younger gymnasts may have psychological or physical advantages in elite gymnastics competition. Physically, younger gymnasts, particularly those who have not yet gone through puberty, tend to be lighter, smaller, more pliable and flexible, which aids them in performing more complex skills and gives them a better strength-to-weight ratio."
posted by jacalata at 12:11 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


> "I don't see a lot of men clamoring for rhythmic gymnastics ..."

You may not see them, but they men's rhythmic gymnastics certainly exists as a sport, and has been trying to get into the olympics for some time.
posted by kyrademon at 12:15 PM on August 8, 2012


> "More sports, less dancing."

I am sorry to hear that for some reason you have been forced to watch the events that I enjoy and you do not.
posted by kyrademon at 12:16 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


And according to that excellent Jezebel article, the average age used to be even higher, part of the reason why women were able to compete better in the rings and such.

Ah I didn't know that, kyrademon. Fascinating.
posted by Melismata at 12:16 PM on August 8, 2012


It's biggest in Japan, where it grew from stick gymnastics, at first in a kind of parallel evolution; it's related to artistic gymnastics, wushu martial arts, and of course women's RG. Men's rhytmic gymnastics has a presence in, at the very least, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, Australia, Mexico, USA, Canada and Russia.


Here's a men's RG stick routine. You can find other videos on YouTube.
posted by kyrademon at 12:30 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was beautiful, thanks. I'd never considered how similar in many ways to wushu routines it is, but that makes tons of sense.
posted by gilrain at 12:38 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


the average age used to be even higher, part of the reason why women were able to compete better in the rings and such.

This seems bass ackwards to me. If you're concerned about the decreasing average age of competitors, why would you get rid of those aspects of competition in which older women have an advantage? Why not emphasize them? You wouldn't need artificial age limits if 14 year olds always lost because they had no upper body strength.
posted by Justinian at 12:39 PM on August 8, 2012


The Saudi show jumping team nearly had a woman member (her horse got hurt and she missed too many qualifiers). But they gave Dalma Rushdi Malhas a shout out in their interviews and explicitly said they hoped they had a female team member in the next games.
posted by fshgrl at 12:46 PM on August 8, 2012


All the women's gymnastics medalists at the '84 Olympics were 16 or under, for instance.

The woman I thought the best gymnast at the '84 Olympics was Ecaterina Szabo--she was 17. She got silver in the all-around, lead her team (which included two 18 year olds) to the team gold, and got three golds in individual events (Floor, Vault and Beam). Kathy Johnson--on the American team--won a bronze in the balance beam and a silver in the team event--she was 25.

I would say that there was a hefty dose of moral panic in the notion that "OMG, they're just getting younger and younger!!" It seems, basically, to be a sport that you typically peak at at around age 16/17 and which a few manage to excel at earlier and a few manage to stay at the highest level a little longer. That doesn't seem all that shocking to me.
posted by yoink at 12:49 PM on August 8, 2012


Oh, and Mah Yanhong of China who won a gold on the uneven bars in 1984 was 20 (or 19--her age is disputed).
posted by yoink at 12:52 PM on August 8, 2012


Am I the only one who is not excited about them adding women's boxing? They should have instead just dropped men's boxing.
posted by MrBobaFett at 1:17 PM on August 8, 2012


It seems, basically, to be a sport that you typically peak at at around age 16/17 and which a few manage to excel at earlier and a few manage to stay at the highest level a little longer. That doesn't seem all that shocking to me.

Are there any sports in which men peak at 16 or 17?

It annoys me because it's not that young teenagers are intrinsically better gymnasts than adult women, it's just that the particular set of events traditionally chosen favours that build. Tilt the balance between grace and strength even a little bit, and the sport would change dramatically.

(And to me, if girls typically peak at around age 16/17 when they can't compete internationally until they're 16, it certainly implies that more than a few could reach that level earlier.)
posted by Azara at 1:49 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you think for one minute that you are going to get me to willfully bash my goolies on a 4 x 6 for the entertainent of others, you are out of your mind.

Trust me when I tell you that it is bad enough when it happens on accident.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:48 PM on August 8, 2012


Are there any sports in which men peak at 16 or 17?

If there aren't, something, something puberty? Doesn't puberty end older for guys? It strikes me that that may be why men don't peak in (for instance) gymnastics so young--they're more likely to still be experiencing body changes that would be advantageous.

Though, seriously, it's pretty revolting that they were forcing the women to wear so little clothing.

Loads of people jumped on this comment to point out the rules had changed, missing the past tense.

And why not just keep on having events that recognize the differences between men's and women's bodies?

I'm actually curious whether there are sports where the differences cancel out in the sense that women would, on average, have some set of advantages and men, on average, a different set, but it leaves both the men and women competitive. (Apparently, doubles luge allows men and women to compete together, but it's all men. No idea why. Men tend to weigh more, so that might matter.)

Then again, I'm wondering about the shooting competitions. The women don't have a 50m prone rifle competition at all and that seems like an event where men and women would be on equal footing. The women's three position rifle is half as long as the men's, but it seems somewhat improbable to me that the women tire twice as fast. The winning woman did better than the winning man in the first half of the men's final (he did better in the second half, so he clearly wasn't that tired).
posted by hoyland at 4:43 PM on August 8, 2012


Men tend to weigh more, so that might matter.

The increased weight means that they maintain more momentum through the turns. The way to cheat (mostly in bobsled) is to add weights to the sled.

One solution would be to mandate a total weight of the sled + riders so that everyone would add ballast to the sled so they all weigh the same. The problem there is that a heavier sled favors stronger riders for the push so I think you'd end up with athletes that were as big and strong as possible or something.

More on topic, I would love to see more sports be mixed gender as long as nothing favors one gender over the other.
posted by VTX at 5:21 PM on August 8, 2012


Then again, I'm wondering about the shooting competitions.

So, when Kim Rhode "became the first American athlete to win five medals in an individual event in five consecutive Olympic Games", I got to wondering about shooting.

"Olympic shooting events were mixed from 1968-1980. In 1984, women's shooting events primarily broke off into their own events, with the exception of trap and skeet shooting. Those remained mixed events until 1996, when the first fully segregated shooting events occurred at the Atlanta Games. And with that series of moves, the gender debates heated up."

So, what happened at the '92 Olympics - after which no shooting events were mixed-gender - "was the first time a woman (Zhang Shan in the skeet competition) took a gold medal in such an open event [trap and skeet], and also the last time they were held. From 1996 and on, all shooting events have been either men's or women's."

Equestrian events are the only mixed-gender Olympic event.
posted by rtha at 5:40 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


One solution would be to mandate a total weight of the sled + riders so that everyone would add ballast to the sled so they all weigh the same. The problem there is that a heavier sled favors stronger riders for the push so I think you'd end up with athletes that were as big and strong as possible or something.

You might be able to find a weight so that you'd want one massive person and one smaller person. Of course, that runs the risk of the small person just being there to make weight rather than for their actual skill. That's the disaster that befalls co-ed soccer leagues I've played in, where you play five a side and rotate freely. You have to have X women on the pitch at all times and the keeper doesn't count. If your best keeper happens to be a woman, you don't put her in goal, even if she's a bit useless as a field player, because she's more valuable as a warm body for substitutions.

Equestrian events are the only mixed-gender Olympic event.

Doubles luge is nominally mixed, but is basically always two men.
posted by hoyland at 5:53 PM on August 8, 2012


"Equestrian events are the only mixed-gender Olympic event."

Also mixed doubles tennis and badminton, and certain sailing events (well, apparently just the 49er now).

I suppose also ice dancing and pairs skating, if we're counting mixed doubles tennis and badminton.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:24 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The way to cheat (mostly in bobsled) is to add weights to the sled.

One solution would be to mandate a total weight of the sled + riders so that everyone would add ballast to the sled so they all weigh the same. The problem there is that a heavier sled favors stronger riders for the push so I think you'd end up with athletes that were as big and strong as possible or something.


This is an imaginary problem. There is already a weight limit in bobsleigh and they already add weight to the sled if needed to get to exactly that limit.
posted by ssg at 7:46 PM on August 8, 2012


I guess I thought the weight limit applied to the sled so that having heavier riders meant a higher total weight but I didn't really look into it.
posted by VTX at 5:49 AM on August 9, 2012


"Thursday will see a woman win an Olympic gold medal for boxing for the first time in history. I'm excited."
posted by fight or flight at 3:12 PM on August 8

They sure did, with style, class and a large points difference.
posted by marienbad at 2:55 PM on August 9, 2012


Katie Taylor's hometown seems to be pleased with her boxing gold medal.
posted by Zed at 4:32 PM on August 9, 2012


and so are we

Teenager Claressa Shields wins USA's only boxing gold.

posted by clavdivs at 6:43 AM on August 11, 2012


For anyone still following this thread, the NY Times has an article today on rhythmic gymnastics and its continued women-only status at the Olympics. Interesting take-aways:

- There are huge recruitment problems for men outside Japan, where there are local competitions, and gyms in the US are chipping away at the problem by marketing the sport as "martial arts gymnastics."

- Perpetual US champion Julie Zetlin wins the gold medal for least articulate and coherent US athlete. Forget the "frat-boy" digs at Ryan Lochte, and consider Zetlin's comments on her sport, according to the Times: “I think it should stick to a women’s sport. I think that in today’s society, there are lots of different things for men and women, but I think it’s still better just for females...I think it’s just unique like that. I think rhythmic gymnastics should just stay a girl-power sport.”
posted by Wylla at 3:37 AM on August 12, 2012


Why We Ignore Women's Sports, with a focus on cycling.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:10 AM on August 13, 2012


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