It started in Ancient Greece. 776 B.C., to be exact. The first Olympics were held in ancient Greece. Women were excluded, so they competed every four years in their own Games of Hera, to honor the Greek goddess who ruled over women and the earth.
Four hundred years later, in 396 B.C. — Kyniska, a Spartian princess, wins an Olympic chariot race, but is barred from collecting her prize in person.
In 1867, The Dolly Vardens, a black women’s team from Philadelphia, play men’s teams as a “curiosity” yet end up winning most games. They are deemed illegal.
At the first modern Olympics in Athens 1896, a woman, Melpomene, was barred from the official race, ran the same course as the men and finished in 4 hours 30 minutes, faster than many of the men. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, said, “It is indecent that the spectators should be exposed to the risk of seeing the body of a women being smashed before their very eyes. Besides, no matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks.”
1900 – The first 19 women to compete in the modern Olympics Games in Paris, France, play in just three sports: tennis, golf and croquet.
Three years later, a women’s curling team from Quebec City defeats a men’s curling team from the Royal Caledonia in Scotland.
Nine years later, swimming and diving debuted at the Stockholm Olympic Games, with 57 women from 11 nations competing in those sports. Some of the womens’ swimming times came very close to the mens’. The next year, the American Olympic Committee formally opposed women’s athletic competition in the Olympics. The only exception was the floor exercise, where women are allowed to only wear long skirts.
In 1931, the New York Yankees played an exhibition game against minor-league Chattanooga Lookouts, who featured a 17-year-old female pitcher by the name of Jackie Mitchell. In the first inning, she struck out Babe Ruth on four pitches, causing him to vow to never bat against a woman again. She only needed three for the next guy — Lou Gehrig, whom we hope was more gracious.
Mitchell’s contract was void only days after by the then-commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who subsequently declared women unfit to play baseball, saying that it was “too strenuous.”
You get the idea, and these are only a few examples.
It is happening again. We now have Paula Radcliffe, who finished the London Marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 25 seconds, the fastest time ever registered by a woman. It has been called one of the greatest individual performances in the history of sports.
As of January 1 next year, that record will be wiped from the annals of marathon world records.
Why? Because the London Marathon allows women to run alongside pacesetters who are male. Officials from the International Association of Athletics Federations have decided that running alongside these men makes women artificially faster.
Pacers are non-competitors who run small portions of middle to long distance runs with the elite pack in order to keep them at a pace consistent with the elite group’s expectations or a world record attempt.
The thinking is that because the woman tries to follow the pace set by the man, it is somehow unfair. Is it unfair when a man wins and he has had a male pacer? The pace is just as false.
So women who run in marathons that feature mixed genders in their pacers— as many do — won’t register times that qualify as the women’s world record. The new rule also means that no woman can ever set another world record unless she’s being paced by other women.
Seems like this is just another ridiculous attempt to discredit female athletes. Poor sportsmanship and sour grapes. Again.
Photo Credit: kenwood