The Canadian Women’s soccer team after winning the bronze medal in Rio 2016 ©Canada Soccer
In the past, gender has hindered women from doing things like voting, wearing trousers, and having a serious career. In 2016, these simple habits are taken for granted, as they should be.
Female participation in sports has grown immensely over the last years, yet there is still some negativity surrounding it. Girls drop out of activities because they are labelled as masculine. Luckily, the women of the Canadian Olympic team are changing this.
At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, there were more events that exclusively Canadian women qualified to compete in than men. Moreover, Canada was one of the 29 countries from which women won more medals than men did, despite the fact that there were still fewer medals that women were eligible to win. Being an athletic country, Canada took great pride in its athletes’ successes and celebrated these women.
Sixteen-year-old Penny Oleksiak won gold in the women’s 100m freestyle, tying with American swimmer Simone Manuel. In addition, Oleksiak went on to win a silver and two bronze medals in individual butterfly and varying relays. Her success at such a young age turned her into a Canadian icon overnight.
One of the most celebrated Canadian teams (that doesn’t play on ice) is the women’s soccer team. The players are considered world class talent and are listed alongside the great women’s teams of Germany, the United States, and Japan. Not only has their success breathed life into a massive soccer culture in Canada, but they have also captivated hearts with their heroic sportsmanship. Canadian women handled any unfairness with grace, and captain Christine Sinclair taught the nation of Canada how to win and lose with respect.
Sinclair has become a hero for many girls. In the 2011 World Cup opening match against host country Germany, she was elbowed in the face and, unknowingly, broke her nose. Despite this, Sinclair refused to be taken off and played until the end.
This year, Canada won a bronze Olympic medal in its match against Sweden. Although hockey may be Canada’ favourite winter sport, soccer is definitely its favourite summer sport.
Canada is an athletic country. Sports are encouraged for men and women and never looked down upon. However, this does not mean that women don’t feel excluded in some situations. For example, when tennis player Eugenie Bouchard was interviewed after a match, one of the questions asked was: “Who would you date?” It goes without saying that this would not have been asked of a male athlete. Small details like this need to be addressed.
Not only are the women of the Canadian Olympic team improving the image of sport, they have inspired millions of girls and women to maintain activity in their lives. Because the Olympics are heavily watched, it gives young girls the opportunity to choose their role model and aspire to be like her.
Though the Canadian women were very successful, it has been a long road for them. In 1928, the first seven Canadian women took part in the Amsterdam games. Since then, more and more events for women have been added and the yawning gap between genders has (somewhat) closed. Women still have a long way to go but that is why it is vital that they begin with winning medals. They need to show the next generation of girls that anything is possible and that women can do just as well, if not better, than men.
-by Luise S.