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Posts Tagged ‘female athletes’

Here's A Soccer Story You Will (Guaranteed) Enjoy

In sports, women on June 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm
A football (or soccer ball) icon.

Image via Wikipedia

Loved this story in The New York Times:

About 1:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon, a caravan of luxury cars and sport utility vehicles roared into the park where hundreds of supporters had been waiting. President Jacob Zuma had arrived. The president was in this town, about 260 miles northeast of Johannesburg, to commemorate the life of Peter Mokaba, an antiapartheid activist.

Five days before the start of the World Cup, the stars of the celebration were a soccer team — a group of 35 women ages 49 to 84. After the speeches and ceremonies, the team, Vakhegula Vakhegula (Grannies Grannies), would play an exhibition game.

Beka Ntsanwisi founded Vakhegula Vakhegula five years ago as a way of providing inspiration for older women. The team usually plays its league games on Saturdays, but this was a special day with the president coming. And Ntsanwisi wanted to have a word with the president.

From the team’s meager beginning, Vakhegula Vakhegula have become well known in the region, and news of the team has spread to the United States. The team received an invitation to compete in the Veterans Cup, a tournament for teams with players 30 or older, next month in Lancaster, Mass.

I posted last week a story I wrote for the Times about my suburban adult softball team, with whom I’ve been playing for nine years, a group of men and women whose friendship — and athletic skills — have made my life incomparably more joyful.

Like the Grannies, our games are intergenerational and as much about having fun with people we truly enjoy as competing in a sport. I love knowing that sports, and sports-related friendships, are enjoyed just as much by other women around the world.

For Onica Ndzhovela, the Grannies helped her spirit from being broken. She had 12 children; 8 of them died.

“People were saying I was mad,” Ndzhovela said. “I was not mad; I had a lot of stress. It’s not easy to lose eight.”

The Grannies became her family; the soccer competition became an emotional outlet.

Female Athletes Almost Invisible On Television — Except Abby Sunderland

In sports, women on June 11, 2010 at 10:12 pm
Lorena Ochoa (MEX) on the day before 2008 Mast...

Lorena Ochoa. Image via Wikipedia

Women athletes are getting even less visible (if that’s possible) on television, according to a new study.

In 2004, they got a big 5.6 percent of network news coverage and today get — wait for it — 1.6 percent.

This, in the era of awesome women like race car driver Danica Patrick, golfer Michelle Wie, tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, (recently retired) golfer Lorena Ochoa — and the wave of Korean women now dominating the LPGA.

Here’s an interesting post on what this might do to young girls who dream of sports careers. If you don’t see people like you (hello, men’s pro sports) playing at the highest levels of amateur, elite and professional sport, let alone talking about how they train, recover from surgery and injury, choose and work with their coaches, caddies and trainers — how will today’s eager young girls know it’s possible for them as well?

Anyone remember the media frenzy over soccer star Mia Hamm, who won Olympic gold in 1996 and 2004? Athletic little girls, and teens, need powerful, cool women role models much more than little boys — there’s no lack of guys on TV playing sports.

I burst into tears of pride and awe when the U.S. women took bronze, silver and gold (!!!) in saber fencing at the 2008 Olympics — because I was one of the first women (of about 300) to compete nationally in saber, back when it was considered too dangerous for women in the Olympics. That was only in the 1990s…Women who make sports history are often inspired by other women.

Ever heard of Isabelle Autissier? She’s my idol, a solo sailor in some of the world’s toughest races. She had to be rescued when her yacht went down mid-race.

I bet you Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old sailor who’s been making headlines this week, knows exactly who she is.

Why are women athletes deemed so non-newsworthy?

This Kick-Ass Athlete Isn't Skinny (And Wears $1,000 Heels)

In sports, women on May 26, 2010 at 11:58 am
HAVRE DE GRACE, MD - JUNE 09: Christina Kim (U...

Image via Wikipedia

Love this profile of pro golfer Christina Kim, from The Wall Street Journal:

It’s worth noting, as always with Ms. Kim, what she was wearing Monday night: a low-cut black sheath dress, spectacular jewelry and lacy, high-strapped, 4-inch René Caovilla heels which must have cost at least $1,000 when she bought them in Dubai last December. “They’ve even got sparklies on the bottom,” she told an admiring cluster while demurely balancing on one shoe to show off the sole of the other. A few minutes earlier she had smashed a few 250-yard drives on the range at Chelsea Piers, just behind the party room, wearing said impossible shoes.

The title of Ms. Kim’s book, appropriately enough, is “Swinging From My Heels: Confessions of an LPGA Star.” Written with Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck and structured as an account of her 2009 season, it’s just the kind of saucy tell-all you’d expect from perhaps the Tour’s most flamboyant personality…”I’m loud, I’m not thin and I say what I think. I’ve got a bunch of good friends among the Koreans, but it’s complicated.”

She’d already earned her first million dollars by the age of 19. I love her ambition, talent and determination to be her own woman. In a world where some women start reaching for Botox and Restylane in their 20s, and spend more energy wrestling with body issues than actually doing sports, Kim’s not afraid to be herself, at any size.

(Doing anything athletic that requires accuracy well in high heels is tough; I once trained on a Glock 9mm at Quantico, FBI’s headquarters, in three-inch heels.)

A talented female athlete who’s loud, not thin, kicks ass both on the golf course and in rhinestone-studded four-inch heels? Bring it on!

A Woman Adds 10 Pounds — To Better Compete In The Olympics

In sports on February 18, 2010 at 5:57 am
Photo of figure skater w:Tanith Belbin.

Tanith Belbin. Image via Wikipedia

Now there’s a twist — a young woman being ordered to gain weight in order to better compete as an Olympic athlete.

Great story in The New York Times about American ice dancer Tanith Belbin, by reporter Juliet Macur:

Heading into their second Games, Belbin and Agosto, the Olympic silver medalists in 2006, are once again among the favorites to win a medal in the competition, which begins Friday with the compulsory dance. What should give them an edge this time, Belbin said, is something she would have never dreamed could help them: her newly found muscles and curves.

She can thank one of her coaches, Natalia Linichuk, for that.

Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov, who were the 1980 Olympic ice dancing champions, began coaching Belbin and Agosto in the summer of 2008, when Belbin and Agosto left suburban Detroit for a fresh start.

Linichuk took one look at the 5-foot-6, 105-pound Belbin and said, “You need to gain 10 pounds.” She said more muscle would help Belbin skate faster and more fluidly.

“At first, I said no way, but then I started to understand that it needed to be done,” said Belbin, who is from Kirkland, Quebec, but holds dual citizenship. “I don’t feel like I had a safe, well-thought-out or well-researched diet until the past few years, until Natalia gave me that ultimatum.”

As it turned out, Linichuk also ended up saving Belbin from a problem that has long plagued figure skaters: disordered eating. Often not as severe as eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, disordered eating involves irregular eating habits that can be fueled by a distorted body image. Belbin said she had struggled with those issues since puberty….

Belbin began marveling at her new body. She had gained 10 pounds. Her waist size increased two inches because her core was so much stronger.

Agosto could see a huge difference in Belbin’s skating. During lifts, she was no longer a sack of potatoes, holding on for dear life. She could hold her positions much better, and that made it easier for Agosto because she did not move around as much.

Belbin says she wishes she had learned the importance of nutrition long ago. She said U.S. Figure Skating officials would have provided a nutritional counselor if she had asked them for one. But that phone call “never fit into her busy day,” Belbin said. In the end, she preferred educating herself.

“The message shouldn’t be, go consult a nutritionist; we need more education,” she said. “Skaters always sit there and wait to be told what to do, but in this case, they need to take the initiative and find out how to eat healthy.”

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