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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Swimming For Gender Equality Over The Last 100 Years

International Olympic Committee (IOC) founder Baron de Coubertin was adamantly against female participation in the Olympic Games.

According to the International Swimming Hall of Fame archives (see here), FINA first recommended the inclusion of women for the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games in 1910. But this recommendation was against the wishes of the Swedish IOC representative who remarked, "Women swimmers in the Olympics? Next they will want the right to vote."

How times have changed.

Fast forward from the 1912 Stockholm Olympics where women were given the opportunity to swim in the 100m freestyle and the 4x100m freestyle relay to the present where women were given the opportunity to showcase their skills to a worldwide audience in 19 swimming events, water polo, synchronized swimming and diving at the 2012 London Olympics.

Additionally, men and women will be able to vote online in the upcoming World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) awards.

100 years after women were first accepted as Olympic swimmers where the longest race or relay leg was 100 meters, 25 incredibly fit and talented women intensely competed over 10,000 meters in Hyde Park's Serpentine at the 2012 London Olympic Games. In front of a worldwide television audience and over 30,000 spectators including British Prime Minister David Cameron, the women majestically showcased the sport of open water swimming with grace, sportsmanship and athleticism.

And the gold went to one of the leading dark horses, a WOWSA Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year nominee, Risztov Éva of Hungary.

Risztov’s versatility as an individual medley swimmer proved valuable as she shifted gears from being a world-class pool swimmer to an Olympic champion. In pulling off arguably the greatest upset of the 2012 London Olympic Games, Risztov gambled on a high-risk strategy that she executed to perfection and earned her long sought after gold by the slimmest of margins. Fourth at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 400m individual medley, Risztov retired in 2005, feeling unfulfilled. But her hunger for an Olympic medal never waned and she returned as an open water swimmer in 2009. She didn’t immediately rocket to stardom. Rather, she paid her dues and learned along the way: getting bumped, beaten and red-carded. With a steely resolve and abundant confidence in London, she mimicked the favorite's winning strategy by going out fast, avoiding the physicality in the front, and facing down her rivals. For her long-held belief in her gold medal potential, for her humble willingness to shift disciplines, and for her risk-taking plan that turned the tables on the fast marathon swimming field in history, Risztov Éva is a worthy nominee for the 2012 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

The full slate of nominees will be released on November 1st when online voting begins.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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