Women’s athletic achievements are gaining a level of coverage and popularity which is so far unprecedented, however, this is still happening in a male-defined sports sector, where sportswomen are struggling to fight sexualisation of their performance and leadership skills.
The coverage of women’s sports has suffered from sexist attitudes which sadly still characterise the culture of sport. Female coaches and administrators face considerable inequalities, with many claiming that the “real” problem for gender equality in sport is not merely fewer numbers of female athletes and events, but the lack of women in leadership and decision-making roles generally.
Unfortunately for women, pathways to power are invariably littered with reminders that sport is still very much a man’s world.
Although many sportswomen continue to become legends in their respective disciplines, in Europe for example, many female athletes have a lack of legal contracts and for this reason, are continuously exposed to unnecessary risks.
During the last Olympic Games, you could even hear sexist commentary in the mainstream media, such as when renowned American journalist reported that "the wife of a Chicago Bears player" had achieved a bronze medal.
Women's beach volleyball is especially under the spotlight, a sports discipline that attracts a curious audience that is sometimes more concerned with watching the players in bikinis than enjoying the actual game.
This idea was memorably turned on its head by the Egyptian team at the recent Olympics who each sported a full body suit with veil included. On the other side of the net, a European team clad in minimal clothing. The two sides of the story face to face.
In surfing, women have also increased recognition via media coverage of women’s events and increased prize money. Yet imagery of the female surfer is still highly sexualised and objectified. Professional female surfers highlight that the industry is sexist and sponsors ignore surf talent in favour of model looks. Many struggles to find sponsorship and report feeling pressured to “show their body”.
Female athletes who gain public visibility and acceptance tend to embody femininity that appeals to white, male heterosexual audiences. This means that women can be subjects of exceptional achievements in sport, but at the same time, they also can be looked at as sex objects and are often publicly applauded for maintaining their commitment to domestic roles alongside their sporting achievements.
Despite this, many women are rocking the world of sport.
For example, Naomi Osaka has recently become the most prominent player of the Women´s Tennis Association ranking. The Japanese star hasn't stopped piling up meteoric achievements since the end of 2017 when she decided to change her coach. Osaka has turned into the youngest woman to become No.1 since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010 at the age of 20.
Naomi is also the 26th woman to hold the top ranking and the 1st Asian player to reach the top flight. Other recent records include becoming the first Japanese player to win a singles Grand Slam title after defeating her childhood idol Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final.
Born in Osaka and raised in the United States by her Japanese mother and Haitian father, Naomi was trained for a tennis career from a young age and stands out for her dominant performances, mature mentality and shy demeanour off the court.
While many of her peers approach tennis with a hyper-competitive attitude, Osaka has endeared herself to fans and the media with her cheerfulness and sense of humour, using her post-match interviews to profess her love for video games and Japanese food.
Mireia Belmonte is the best ever Spanish swimmer and the first woman swimmer to become Olympic champion breaking various freestyle and butterfly records.
Mireia owes her swimming career to a conscientious physician who sent her to swim at the age of 4 to treat her scoliosis. Who knows where she would be now otherwise? The early days were hard since she was allergic to chloride and also struggling with asthma.
Her parents were diligent and taught her that achievement requires hard work and effort, and this soon became apparent. At the age of 12, she had already won 6 national championships, demonstrating great competitiveness and fighting spirit.
Now, Mireia has won more than 40 medals in major international competitions, including a gold medal in long-course world championships in Budapest.
Saina Nehwal is so good at badminton that even a career-threatening knee injury couldn't keep her from dominating. After months of subsequent surgeries, she won a second consecutive bronze at the 2017 world championship. And as her knee improved, so did her results. So significant is her contribution to Indian sport that she currently shares honours with Indian cricket legends.
Ding Ning is the most famous woman table-tennis player in China, with more than 2 million followers on one of China's biggest social media platforms. Ding was a gold medal-winning table tennis team member at the 2012 London Olympics.
For Hawaii native Michelle Wie, the majority of her life has been spent on a golf course. Once deemed a teen phenomenon at the age of 13, Wie is no stranger to fame. Six days before her 16th birthday, Wie turned pro, instantly becoming the world's highest-paid female golfer.
All these stories once had a “once upon a time” moment and most of them began at school age. That's where the love for sports really starts. According to several studies, those who practice sport at school have a more than 75% chance of remaining involved in it for the rest of their lives.
The girls born in the 1970-80s are those who really began to change the rules of the game, positioning themselves against the establishment. Today those women are the trainers and coaches of the next generation, who need to keep the flame alive.
Whether you’re an avid sportswomen, an amateur looking to beat that next personal best, or a complete newbie trying out a new sport for the first time, Porto Brazil's eco-friendly range of swimwear and sportswear has what you need to emulate the achievements of those who’ve gone before you.