Whether they are a new generation of young female athletes, such as 17-year-old ski jumper Sara Takanashi, or are Olympic veterans, like Canadian ice-hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, women at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games are breaking records, making history and imposing themselves both on the field of play and in sports administration.
A series of firsts for women in sport
Over the two weeks of Olympic competitions, there have been many firsts for numerous female athletes and sports, with new events, such as women’s ski jumping, making their debut on the Olympic programme. American Maddie Bowman became the first Olympic champion in women’s ski halfpipe, while Tomoko Takeuchi from Japan is the first female athlete from Asia to win a medal in snowboarding after claiming silver in giant parallel slalom.
Other historic milestones include the Swiss women’s ice hockey team winning its first ever medal since the event was introduced at the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano in 1998. Rising young starAdelina Sotnikova entered Russia’s history books as the first woman ever to win Olympic figure skating gold for her country, and cross-country skier Justyna Kowalczyk’s golden finish in the women’s 10km classic earned her the title of Poland’s most successful winter Olympian of all time.
Mums on the road to success
Olympic achievements have also been rife for athletes who juggle their sporting careers with motherhood. Belarussian freestyler Alla Tsuper finally scored aerials gold after unsuccessful attempts in four editions of the Winter Games. Having had a child shortly after the Vancouver 2010 Games, Tsupe was joined on the podium by fellow mum, Australia’s Lydia Lassila, who took the bronze in historic fashion as she became the first female athlete to complete a backflip followed by four full twists.
Another one to savour Olympic success in front of her admiring daughter was Dutch speed skater Carien Kleibeuker, who made an impressive comeback after taking time out to focus on being a mother, and claimed bronze in the women’s 5,000m.
Leading roles in sports administration
With her fourth gold medal won with Canada’s women’s ice hockey team still hanging around her neck, Hayley Wickenheiser became the latest female athlete to become a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Athletes’ Commission. The 35-year-old has competed in both Summer and Winter Games, was elected on Thursday in Sochi to the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission for a term of approximately eight years. She is now up for election as an IOC member for the same period. She joins former fencer and Olympian Claudia Bokel, who was re-elected as Chair of the Commission a few days prior to the start of the Sochi 2014 Games, with Angela Ruggiero elected as Vice-Chair. An Olympic ice hockey champion, Ruggiero has played more games for Team USA than any other athlete, male or female.
These female athletes, past and present, provide merely a taster of all the incredible achievements made by women at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Through their sporting triumphs and tribulations and their gestures of fair play, they continue to inspire generations of women and girls across the world. So, let’s hear it for the ladies!