Team GB’s Wonder Women
It’s taken 125 years, but this year, Team GB have sent more female athletes than men to an Olympics Games! The comparison dates back to 1932 where Team GB sent an all-female team of 4 (with no men) to the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. This year, of the 376 athletes, 201 are female compared with 175 male athletes.
An amazingly talented set of role models for our girls, this year’s cohort of women for Team GB are set to be huge history makers.
We’d love for a longer lasting legacy for these stars in schools. We peak our interest in many of these sports every 4 (or 5… Covid dependent) years, but these women can bring so much to teaching our girls some strong values. Let’s review…
Sky Brown - Skateboarding
Probably this year’s most relatable member of the squad to our students is Sky Brown, currently 13 years old, and is Team GB’s youngest ever athlete competing in a Games. The youngster is insanely talented, described by Tony Hawk as “one of the best female skaters ever, if not one of the best well-rounded skaters ever, regardless of gender”. But for such a young athlete, Brown has overcome huge adversity, recovered from life-threatening injuries to compete and has shown an insurmountable amount of resilience.
Aged just 10, with a broken arm, Brown won first place at the first opportunity to qualify for the Olympics back in 2019 in California. Her next accident, however, nearly ended her short-lived career after a fall from 4.5M. Brown suffered multiple skull fractures, another broken arm and hand and lacerations to her heart and lungs. Injuries that would have taken huge amounts of rehabilitation, Brown worked incredibly hard to regain her strength and was back to skating in just 2 months.
We can’t wait to see what Brown and her teammate Bombette Martin (aged just 14 as well!) have to offer throughout the tournament. But interestingly, both girls are unconventionally “not coached”. It’s not the norm to be coached in skateboarding which makes us think skateboarding is more accessible than we thought. Hopefully the girls can inspire more girls to take up the sport and head down to their local skatepark.
2. Jade Jones - Taekwondo
Jade Jones was one of 4 women this year aiming for history books, to win a third gold medal at three separate summer games. By the time we got round to this article, Jones unfortunately had already lost her first round Taekwondo match to Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin (another hugely inspiring athlete btw) and is currently awaiting to hear whether she’ll compete in the bronze medal match. In her post match interview Jones, clearly devastated, explained how her mindset impacted the match. She explained how she’d put too much pressure on herself and that she’d felt scared.
These things happen, our mental wellbeing and mindset can enable or disable us in many different situations and for Jones to so openly talk about her mindset hopefully shows our girls it’s ok to talk about what they’re going through. Following that interview, Jones has released further social media posts of a person determined to bounce back and learn from what happened in her match. What a fantastic person to model against with such a relatable experience to many of us.
3. Laura Kenny - Cycling
Laura Kenny is on track to be Great Britain’s most successful female athletes, looking to take Katherine Grainger’s record of 5 medals. But as if 1 record isn’t enough, Kenny is also aiming for the title of first British female athlete to get golds at 3 separate summer games.
Kenny, first hand, has understood the importance of parental influence on health and wellbeing. Aged 8 Laura took up cycling following in the footsteps of her mother who was trying to lose weight. Had it not have been for the inspiration she found from her mum, we might have missed out on an incredible cycling career! The research is abundant on how health and wellbeing values reflect between parents and their children and so if we can encourage whole families to eat healthier and keep active our future generations will continue to follow suit.
Kenny, now a mum herself, has spoken avidly about how she plans to raise son, Albie, with a healthy balanced lifestyle and we hope she’ll resonate with many other parents to help us on our mission to keep girls’ more active!
4. Dina Asher-Smith - Athletics
A sensational young woman, Dina Asher-Smith is Britain’s fastest woman, a barbie doll, a Vogue cover model and an award-winning columnist. There have been so many accomplishments for the young 25 year old and we all hold high hopes for what she’ll achieve in the games.
But what Asher-Smith astounds us with is her “realness”. She speaks openly and honestly about her physique and women’s health - things affecting our girls on the day to day and helps girls to understand that it’s ok to have muscles and that our periods can affect us.
Speaking about her cover shoot with Vogue, Asher-Smith made a point of having natural hair and explicitly briefing the team that the shoot would embrace her muscles and physique. She wanted to help girls see that black skin, afro hair and muscles are all part of feeling and being beautiful.
On the lead up to Tokyo, Asher-Smith spoke frankly about how periods affect her. Planning began back in January as for her, periods do seem to affect her performance. Every injury Asher-Smith has ever picked up has been when she’s been on her periods. At every opportunity Asher-Smith speaks up about periods in the hope we can normalise the topic. Periods affect hormones, ligaments, lower back (affecting hamstrings), sleep, decision-making and day to day performance and yet we can probably count on two hands how many times periods have come up as a topic in the mainstream media.
5. Shauna Coxsey - Climbing
Shauna Coxsey has had an incredible career spanning over 10 years has seen her win 30 World Cup podiums and 11 gold medals; which is all about to conclude with an Olympic debut as climbing features at the Olympics for the first time. Coxsey started climbing aged just 4 and has openly said that she never fully understood the barriers women face to getting involved.
This sparked her co-founding the Women’s Climbing Symposium, about to be in its 10th year, has grown to be an award winning event to try and open the sport up to more women. Coxsey has said one of her inspirations for starting the event was to try and open the wall up to more women, after seeing none growing up. Hundreds of women attend the women only event, providing them with a safe, accessible space without fear of judgement or feeling exposed.The event has certainly shifted the sport away from being heavily male dominated and with such an incredible role model spearheading the event her olympic legacy will only help to grow this further
6. Alice Dearing
Alice Dearing is one of this year's trailblazers and one we’re incredibly excited to see compete (and hopefully in her Soul Cap swim cap!). Dearing is the first black woman to represent Team GB in swimming at the Olympics and has made history in qualifying for the 10K open water race.
On her debut Olympics, Dearing has been making waves, challenging the systemic racism in swimming. The International Swimming Federation (FINA) rejected the use of Soul Caps, a black-owned company producing swim headwear to protect natural black hair, stating
“[To its] best knowledge, the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration”
An incredibly poor decision and choice of words considering our opening comments about Dearing’s achievement. It confirms what was already thought, that there is little support to improve the diversity and inclusivity of the sport. FINA are said to be reviewing the decision following public backlash.
Not just an incredible athlete, Dearing also co-founded the Black Swimming Association, using her position and voice to encourage a new generation of black swimmers.
To Team GB...
From Stride, we’re wishing all of Team GB the best of luck throughout the games. With such an incredible start and inspiring stories we are so glad our students have fantastic role models like these to look up to!