Female Athletes Almost Invisible On Television — Except Abby Sunderland

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?

With A Smile, A New Husband — and $15 Million — Lorena Ochoa Leaves Pro Golf Tomorrow

How refreshing — a golf story that isn’t about infidelity.

This week, Lorena Ochoa, 28, a rarity as a Hispanic woman in the elite world of professional golf, (dominated of late by Korean women), is retiring to focus on her husband and starting a family. She is the number one player in women’s golf.

She plays her final tournament in Morelia, Mexico this Thursday. Here’s her website announcement.

From The New York Times:

“I do want to be remembered for the things outside the golf course,” she said. “I’m going to work really hard, and this is the compromise I have to myself, a responsibility to give back in order to help others to make a change in their life. I’m going to work on that. That is my goal.”

As she has shown, she is very good at achieving the goals she sets. As for the game, to be sure, Ochoa lost the desire to travel the hard road of professional golf. She was candid in saying she had lost the drive required to remain No. 1, a position she occupied for the past three years.

“Once you reach your goals, it’s really hard to find that motivation,” Ochoa said. “You need to be brave to see that. Just to really listen to your heart and your feelings and be able to see that and make a decision.”

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