Today is International Women’s Day and as part of it, we at DynamiCore want to emphasize some of the exceptional women who changed the course of sports’ history. Without them, we would not be where we are today.
Throughout history, women have been relegated to a second stance in sports. In Ancient Greece, it was men who competed in the Olympic Games; young single women could only compete in the Hera Games. Even in 1896, when the Olympics revived, there were no women competing. In 1900, Hélène de Pourtalès was the first woman to compete in the Olympics and became the first Olympic champion in the sailing category.
Since then, there have been many who have followed her footsteps. There have also been many who have excelled winning gold medals at the Olympic Games. Since the Olympics in Barcelona 92, the female medals have not stopped shining for Spanish female athletes (https://www.dynamicore.es/en/gold-women/ ). In fact, since London 2012, Spanish women have won more gold medals than men. But it is no longer just about medals, many other women have changed the course of sports history in other ways.
Billie Jean King
Tennis champion Billie Jean King changed the history of tennis in the 70s. Billie Jean founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTC) and fought for equal prizes for women, for which much less money was awarded. In 1972, she was named the “sportsman of the year” by Sports Illustrated magazine. This was the first time a woman was given this honor.
In 1973, she defeated Wimbledon’s male champion, Bobby Riggs, in the famous “Battle of the Sexes”, which was broadcasted on television with an audience of 50 million spectators.
Billie Jean founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and she has always advocated for equality in sports.
Aerospace engineer Janet Guthrie was the first woman to compete in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in the 1976 World 600 race. She finished in 15th place but did not settle. The following year, she became the first woman to run in the NASCAR Dayton 500 and qualify for the Indianapolis 500. To date, less than 20 runners (men and women) have competed in both the Dayton 500 and the Indianapolis 500. In 2006, she was admitted to the International Motor Show Hall of Fame.
Toni Stone (or Marcenia Lyle Stone)
Marcenia Lyle Stone changed her name to Toni Stone in the 40s to try her luck in the men’s baseball league in San Francisco. In 1953 she became the first professional baseball player to compete in a top-team when the Indianapolis Clowns signed her. It was said that they had signed her to attract more fans but she won her minutes in the field with effort and dedication. In addition, she had to endure the abuse of fans, teammates and opponents. Later on she played for the Kansas City Monarchs until she retired.
British sailor Dee Caffari has sailed around the world five times. In 2009, she completed the Vendée Globe race and set a new record to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world “the wrong way”; westward against the prevailing winds and currents. She joined Team SCA in 2014, the all-female entry into the Volvo Ocean Race. During training, the team successfully claimed the Round Britain and Ireland speed record for a female crewed monohull in 4 days 21 hours and 39 seconds. She returned to the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/18 where she skippered Team Turn the Tide on Plastic. The campaign raised awareness of plastic pollution in our oceans and inspired people to take action in their day to day lives. Nowadays, Dee continues to highlight the vital importance of reducing our dependence on plastics and improve ocean health and she’s a role model for many female sailors.
In 2014, the San Antonio Spurs signed Becky Hammon as assistant coach, making her the first female assistant coach not only of the NBA but also in the four major sports leagues of North America (NBA for basketball, MLB for baseball, NFL for American football and NHL for hockey). A year later, she was named Principal Coach of the team’s summer league, making her the first woman to hold the position.
Her career in basketball had already been very bright. In her 16 years playing professional basketball, she was signed in six teams of the women’s NBA (WNBA) and in 2015 she was named one of the 15 best players in the WNBA in history.
Thanks to women athletes like them, we are where we are today. There is still a way to go to reach equality in the representation of women in elite sports [link] but in the last decades we have come a long way.
Billie Jean King called-out the inequality in the prizes given to men and women and showed that an event where a woman competed could attract an audience of 50 million spectators. Janet Guthrie showed the world that women can also run in a Dayton 500 and Indianapolis. Toni Stone had to endure the abuses of her fans and her own teammates while giving her best on the field. Dee Caffari had the courage to sail around the world not one but five times, one of them westward against the prevailing winds and currents. And Becky Hammon is breaking the norm and is a great role model for other elite athletes who want to progress their careers towards coaching.
All of them demonstrate the tenacity and perseverance that professional sports requires. At DynamiCore we like to work with that tenacity and perseverance in class because we believe that it is fundamental for our day to day lives. Because it makes us stronger physically but also as people.