There are plenty of records still to be broken in sports. As training and nutrition science gets more precise, significant money is spent on improving facilities and people believe more than ever that the impossible is possible, we are seeing sporting greatness almost daily.
One place where we still have a long way to go though is the limitations on women’s sport and the perception on women’s ability in sport. The boundaries that say women are not as strong, not as powerful, not as fast still stand even though women athletes have proven time and again, they are worthy of going toe to toe with any competitor, label free.
Incredible drive, aggressive desire and competitiveness are amazing qualities that can serve a person right through their life. They are also key factors in making incredible gains in sport. So, what is the real cost of telling a girl or a woman that she can’t? What are the skills, passions and abilities she stands to lose along the way?
One limitation is that there are different competitions for men and women, ladies are given shorter running and cycling routes for example, so their results are limited. One place where there are no such limits is outdoor climbing. A cliff or mountain face doesn’t have different paths depending on your chromosomes. You go up as fast as you can, it’s the same challenge for everyone. Which makes a sheer rock wall a great place to start cracking some of the limitations about women’s ability in men’s sport wide open.
Let’s get out of that limiting space and into a brighter one by taking a look at women around the world who haven’t just said, “Hey you, that’s not true!”, they’ve gone out there and proven it with style.
In 1969, Junko Tabei had to create her own climbing community, the Ladies Climbing Club, because men wouldn’t climb with her. That initiative and her incredible perseverance not only opened avenues for female climbers to take up the sport and bust through limitations set, it also led an all-female climbing group up Everest and she became the first woman to reach the summit in 1975.
What I love is that once a woman goes against the label and proves what she is capable of, it triggers a wave of support and followers from women worldwide, eager to live their sporting passion, maybe even match or even eclipse their hero’s achievements with their own explosive speed and endurance.
In Spain 2017 Margo Hayes raised the bar, and raised it high, when she pushed the highest-grade ascent by a woman to 9a+ (the same as a 5.15a). Her record of the La Rambla climb stood for nine months until an inspired Angela Eiter moved up to a 9b (5.15b)
With stunning results and a wave of happy copycat acts it’s not just proving that hand-me-down attitudes are old and tattered, it’s inspiring every woman everywhere to get out there and have a go at something amazing.
The astounding thing about these sporting accolades is that most of these high achieving women in sports do it because they are driven, they are passionate, and they are strong. That they make headlines, strip back stereotypes and crush negativity is just a fabulous bonus.
What did Junko Tabei say about her Everest achievement? "I didn't intend to be the first woman on Everest. I just simply climbed a mountain".
So no matter what you are into, no matter how far you want to go, make sure you do it with the floodlights lit, so everyone can see your progress and say, “wow, I’m following in her footsteps”.