Groundbreaking Games for women

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Groundbreaking Games for women

Posted on : Tuesday 23rd of August 2016

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From the dizzying gymnastics heights of USA’s Simone Biles to Indian wrestler Sakshi Malik and Brazilian golden girl Rafaela Silva in judo — Rio proved a groundbreaking Games for women.

Biles’s amazing acrobatic skills also won star billing with her record-equalling four women’s gold and a bronze at her first Games.

The 19-year-old became the second African-American after Gabby Douglas in 2012 to win the all-around title, ending her Olympics in the spotlight by carrying the United States flag at the closing ceremony.

“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,” the Texan had said. “I’m the first Simone Biles.”

Despite Biles’s shining success, a gender gap remains with 169 events for men staged in Rio compared to 137 for women.

Nevertheless, the Games still had many firsts with judoka Majlinda Kelmendi winning Kosovo a gold at its maiden Games, as Monica Puig gave Puerto Rico tennis gold.

“I just proved that even after we survived a war, if they (kids in Kosovo) want something they can have it,” said Kelmendi.

Silva, 24, who grew up in Rio’s violent, poverty stricken ‘City of God’ slum, won special mention from IOC president Thomas Bach as the Games drew to a close.

“Rising from the favela to become Olympic champion, she’s an inspiration across the world,” Bach said.

Malik also related how she had to overcome prejudice to become India’s first medallist with freestyle wrestling bronze.

The 23-year-old said her parents had been criticised by local people when she started wrestling.

“I want to say that girls can also do a lot if you give them confidence,” said Malik, who carried the Indian flag at the closing ceremony.

Women from the Middle East were more represented than ever before.

Weightlifter Sara Ahmed, wearing a sports hijab, blazed a trail by becoming the first woman from Egypt to stand on the podium.

Ines Boubakri won the Arab world’s first-ever women’s Olympic fencing medal, dedicating her bronze to “the Tunisian woman, the Arab woman... who has her place in society”.

US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad succeeded in her ambition to show the world that Muslim-American women could compete in elite sports.

The 30-year-old from New Jersey, the first US Olympian to wear a hijab during competition, came away with a bronze in the women’s team sabre event.

Emirati swimmer Nada Al Badwawi said: “We are slowly starting to change the mentality. My main goal is to break down these gender barriers and pave the way for other female swimmers.”

Open up more events

The target in Tokyo in 2020 will be to make even more events open.

Yuriko Koike, governor of the Japanese host city, said, however, it was also hard to change mentalities in Japan.

“Women are coming up with fantastic performances in the world of sports, in the world of politics, unfortunately the percentage of women parliamentarians is lower in Japan than in other major countries,” the 64-year-old said.

“Hillary Clinton talked of a glass ceiling, I think we have an iron ceiling. Along with Olympic athletes, Japan’s female politicians will also take up the challenge and strive to become good role models.”

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