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Women make history and inspire the world on the Olympic stage

Whether it is winning Brazil’s first Olympic gold of the Games, competing in their seventh Olympics or becoming Olympic champions in rugby sevens, women at Rio 2016 are already setting the Olympic stage alight with passion, inspiration and history-making performances.

On day three of the Olympic Games, Australia, New Zealand and Canada scored the first-ever medals in women’s rugby sevens becoming respectively the first-ever Olympic champions, silver and bronze medallists. “It’s been an unbelievable experience. […] To walk away with a gold medal is phenomenal”, enthused Australian player Gemma Etheridge with her golden medal proudly around her neck. “We’ve worked very hard for the last four years preparing for this, so it’s a great feeling to be on the world’s stage to show what rugby has to offer.”

A global stage for female athletes to defy gender stereotypes

It may have been a return to the Olympic Games for men’s rugby after a 92-year absence (1924 was the last time the sport was in the Olympic Games), but it was a historical debut for their female counterparts. Twenty-nine-year-old Etheridge hopes this global exposure will promote her sport and trigger new vocations in the next generation.

She says: "We've had so many messages of support from back home, of young girls saying they've stayed up late at night to watch us and of daughters that have been watching the TV intently and can't wait to play rugby sevens. So I think the more exposure there is, the growth of the game is just going to continue. I really hope that it does fill that desire and I hope we inspire a lot of young girls to try and take up sport and achieve what we have."

In just a few days of competitions, women have been setting the example, defying gender stereotypes and becoming national heroes for their great successes on the field of play.

Women in sports
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Another inspiring win came from female judoka Rafaela Silva. The Carioca won Brazil its first gold medal at the Games; a landmark moment for Rio and for her nation, host to the Olympic Games. But even more significantly, it is an incredible triumph for the young woman who hails from one of the poorest and most dangerous neighbourhood in the country. For more, read the story here.

Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar is scripting history by qualifying for the individual vault finals, making her the country’s first woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. Some women are also defying age. Such is the case of Oksana Chusovitina from Uzbekistan who is making history as the 41-year-old Olympic veteran and gymnast competes in her seventh Olympics.

In addition, there has been the first marriage proposal of the Games. Brazilian women’s rugby sevens player Isadora Cerullo was proposed to by her girlfriend at the Deodoro Stadium, sending a powerful message that “love wins”. Cerullo’s team mate Raquel Kochhann commented: “It was something really cool for our colleague. She got really happy and we were already feeling this happiness in our group.”

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Women at the Games

The success of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Women in Sport policy is noticeable in terms of women’s participation in the Games. The IOC has increased the number of women’s events on the Olympic programme, in collaboration with the International Federations (IFs) and the organising committees. Since 1991, new sports seeking to be included on the Olympic programme have had to include women's events.

The most remarkable increase has taken place within the last two decades, and London set a new record for women’s participation in the Olympic Games: of the 10,568 athletes competing, 4,676 were women (more than 44 per cent). Also in London, women competed in all the sports on the Olympic programme for the first time. The participation rate of women is expected to stay on the rise at Rio 2016, with 51 National Olympic Committees featuring more women than men in their delegations.

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