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July 27, 2012

IconHere come the girls: watch out for these women at the London 2012 Olympic Games

So, the Olympics are finally here. And unless you’ve been living in a box for the past 7 years (or unless you are a London commuter), my guess is that you’re at least a little bit excited about it.

For me, one of the most exciting elements of the Olympics is that this is possibly the one time when women’s sport gets comparable coverage to men’s.

After all, Olympic events are Olympic events: we will all be cheering on Jessica Ennis just as loudly as we will be cheering on Dai Greene, Rebecca Adlington will be getting as much praise as Liam Tancock and well, at the time of writing, Hope Powell’s women’s football team are already outperforming Stuart Pearce’s motley crew.

So, very little sexism there then. However, in this article I will attempt to address another Olympic ‘ism’; namely, ‘eventism’.

Oh yes, eventism is a sad state of affairs that tends to occur every Olympiad. We’ve already seen evidence of the fact that ticket sales for more popular events such as swimming, gymnastics and, of course, athletics have rocketed, whereas other events, such as weight-lifting and archery, struggled to put bums on seats.

This article is my own one-woman crusade to right this wrong. Sit back and enjoy as I run you through some of the more minority, yet still ‘scream and shout at the tv exciting’ events in this Olympics.

I’ll be telling you what they are, why you should watch them and who the key runners and riders are: I’ll even let you pass off all this knowledge as your own, and be the envy of your friends and family as you throw around your sporting wisdom with wild abandon. Of course, the focus will still be on women’s events (I have to tick my feminism box somewhere…!)

Here we go…

Archery

Deepika Kumari

What it’s about: Competitors shoot at a target placed 70m away. Points are scored by embedding the arrow in the 122cm target. Hitting the ‘gold’ (the bit in the middle – apparently it’s only called a bullseye in darts) is worth 10 points and then scoring decreases the further away from this point the arrow hits.

Why you should watch: Archery has to be the ultimate test of skill. Shooting an arrow from a distance of over an Olympic-sized swimming pool away from a target is pretty amazing in itself.  Add to that the pressure of having an Olympic medal at stake and you can be sure the final will be a true nail-biter.

Women to watch: Deepika Kumari (India) is currently ranked world number one. As India isn’t a country that tends to be greatly successful in the Olympics, and isn’t exactly famed for its vast number of female athletes, this is quite refreshing.

 

Basketball

The Aussie powerhouse

What it’s about: If we were American, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  But we’re not, so… Teams aim to score points by shooting the ball into the other team’s basket (or ‘hoop’). 5 players are allowed on court at one time although subs can be made as often as the coach fancies. Games are played in 4 10 min quarters.

Why you should watch: It’s easy to see why this is one of the USA’s national sports; it’s fast-paced and requires both a high level of fitness and a high level of skill.  You’ll never get bored as scores for games are always in double (and sometimes triple) figures and the rules are fairly simple – after watching one game, you’ll feel like a seasoned veteran.

Women to watch: Naturally, the US are the top team in both the men’s and women’s pools, but Russia and Australia are the joint second women’s teams and could push America all the way.  Especially when the Oz side includes Liz Kambage, a 6’8”, 98kg power-house, who is sure to ruffle some US feathers.

 

BMX

Shanaze Reade

What it’s about: Female competitors race around a 440m track, full of bumps, jumps and tight turns.  Races start from an 8m high ramp and usually take about 40 seconds to complete.  Obviously the aim is to be the first competitor to battle across the line.

Why you should watch: BMX stands for Bicycle Motor-Cross; do I need to say more?  It’s fast and furious and, with races lasting less than a minute, you can’t fail to stay engaged from beginning to end.  And if that doesn’t tempt you, let’s face it, there’s bound to be some good crashes…

Women to watch: Shanaze Reade is our girl, the 6th most decorated rider in the world, and a genuine medal contender.  However, she will have to deal with the World Champion, French rider Magalie Pottier and the 2nd most decorated rider in the world, New Zealander Sarah Walker, to get her hands on one.

 

Boxing

Nicola Adams

What it’s about: There are 3 weight categories in the women’s event: fly-weight, middle-weight and light-weight.  Points are awarded by judges for every punch successfully landed on an opponent’s head or upper body.

Why you should watch: This is the first year that women’s boxing has been an Olympic event; for this reason alone, you definitely need to watch!

Women to watch: Both Team GB and Ireland have good medal hopes here, with Nicola Adams (GB) ranked 2nd in the fly-weight category, Savannah Marshall (GB) ranked 2nd in middle-weight and Katie Taylor (Ireland) ranked number 1 in light-weight.  Get ready to wave those flags…

 

Handball

What it’s about: This is a 7-a-side game; the aim to is to score points by throwing the ball into your opponents’ goal (this looks a bit like a hockey goal).  It’s quite a physical game and the referee’s discretion comes into play a lot when calling fouls; usually if they don’t affect possession of the ball the game just carries on.

Why you should watch: If you like a sport with a bit of physical aggression, this one’s for you.  As an ex-rugby player, I love the fact that one of the potential rule infringements is for “playing too passively”; brilliant!

Women to watch: Norway are the current Olympic champions, but Russia are the number one ranked team; the latter is not good news for Team GB, who are in Russia’s group in the pool stages.  However, with only 12 teams in the competition in total, the odds aren’t completely against us.

 

Modern Pentathlon

Mhairi Spence

What it’s about: An Olympic event for women since Sydney in 2000, this consists of 5 events, all completed over one day of competition.  Each event is very different: fencing, swimming, riding, shooting and a 3000m run (the last 2 events are combined at the end of the day).

Why you should watch: If nothing else, you’ve got to be in awe of athletes who can successfully master such a wide range of skills and then successfully show-case them all in one day.  Even the horses they ride aren’t their own; they are brought in by event organisers and after a quick 20 min warm-up athletes must take them straight into competition.  Tough isn’t the word.

Women to watch:  Again, this is an event where we have some real medal contenders: GB has 3 athletes in the top 12 in the world, the highest of which is Mhairi Spence, currently sitting at number 2.

 

Triathlon

She swims, she bikes, she runs...

What it’s about: A 1500m swim, a 43km bike ride and a 10km run make up this gruelling endurance event.  Be the first to cross the finish-line, and the title is yours.  Top-flight triathletes will complete all of this in less than 110 mins.

Why you should watch: Triathlon is a fairly new Olympic event, having only been introduced at the Sydney games.  This event also takes place in some of London’s most beautiful surroundings – Hyde Park and Green Park.  Not that the athletes will be thinking about that, probably…

Women to watch: We have a female competitor ranked number 2: Helen Jenkins.  Again, we will almost certainly see a medal here and it could be gold…

 

Weight-lifting

Tatiana Kashirina

What it’s about: Like boxing, this event is divided into weight categories, from 48kg and under all the way up to 75kg+.  All competitors must compete in two events: the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk.  The winner is the athlete with the highest combined weight lifted.  In the event of a draw, the athlete with the lowest body-weight wins.

Why you should watch: As displays of pure strength go, this is pretty phenomenal.  And whilst the men have been allowed to compete in this event since the start of the modern Olympics (1896), this has only been a female Olympic event since 2000.  As a vehicle for ‘girl power’, you’ve got to get behind it.

Women to watch: Sadly, Team GB don’t really seem to have any credible medal hopes here.  However, you can get over your disappointment by watching current world number 1 Tatiana Kashirina (Russia) strut her stuff.  Weighing only 100.79kg herself, her best combined lift is 328kg and her favourite event is the snatch. But then, would it really tempt you to watch if I told you that Tatiana has a good snatch?

Want more?

 

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Sue Curley

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