Wonder Women: Looking back at the Winter Olympics
As Brits, we complain about the cold weather at every opportunity but, let’s face it, our little island comes to a standstill when faced with snow or ice. As such, we’re not much cop when it comes to the Winter Olympic and Paralympic games. But, perhaps things aren’t so bleak as they first appear…
Sports commentary is usually somewhat beyond my range. However, in the interest of inclusive diversity, and as the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games have now drawn to a close and television schedules have returned to normal, I feel compelled to take a look back at the enormous feats and triumphs that this games season has hosted. British women have entered the history books and they deserve to be shouted about!
Since the initial winter games of 1924, athletes from Team GB have achieved 31 Winter Olympic medals… ever. One or two, here and there, our medals tally faced a steady increase; steady, that is, until we romped home with five medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics alone!
Four years ago, Lizzie Yarnold won gold in the women's skeleton event in Sochi; this year, she became the first British athlete to ever successfully defend a Winter Olympic title! She seemed to surprise even herself, claiming this title (with a 0.45 second lead) with humility, celebrating by heading home to her knitting.
If that still doesn't brew your excitement, she was joined on the podium by fellow Team GB female, Laura Deas. Bringing home the bronze, Deas shared in some of Yarnold's glory, as this was the first time that Great Britain had won two medals in the same event at any Winter Olympics. You go girls.
Beyond the slippery slope of the skeleton, Izzy Atkin completed the 'Super Saturday' hat-trick, achieving a bronze medal in the women's slopestyle skiing event. Not only is she the youngest member of the Team GB troupes, but at 19 years old, Atkin won the first ever British Olympic medal on skis. When I was 19, I could barely stand most Saturdays, but Izzy’s medal marked 17th Feb 2018 as officially the most successful day in British Winter Olympic history.
(Our other two medals were proudly brought home by the boys: Billy Morgan won bronze in Big Air Snowboarding and Dom Parsons achieved bronze in the male individual skeleton event. Of course, these achievements are spectacular too... but these record-breaking women steal the show!)
Looking across to the sadly under-appreciated Winter Paralympic Games and the wins just keep on coming! Our most successful games to date, ParalympicGB achieved SEVEN medals. Two bronze, four silvers and one big fat gold. And, get this, ALL of them were won by female skiers Menna Fitzpatrick and Millie Knight. These women overcome their visual impairment, to race down a ski slope at breakneck speed; they are, as Channel 4 proudly dubbed them, the super humans. Bolstered all the way by their partners/guides, Jen Kehoe and Brett Wild, female athletes across both games have shown that when women win, we win together!
The World Cup, the Six Nations, so many other worldwide sporting events are entirely separated by gender. Unfortunately this means that the viewing stats for the female events are alarmingly low. The last women’s World Cup celebrates a record 750 million viewers; the men’s maintained their usual 3.2 billion. Surely, these winter games have shown that female athletes can’t possibly be defined as lesser?!
Campaigns like ‘This Girl Can’ are working to boost female involvement in sport and to encourage positive body image. Hopefully there will be a legacy from these Winter games that can also champion sheer female power.
These women are at the top of their game, at the top of everyone’s game. They are strong, physically and mentally; they break records and they break the mould. I can’t imagine that many people in the U.K. grow up with aspirations of sliding headfirst down a terrifying ice slope for a living; but these women dared to dream and now bring home the glory to our chilly isles. (Now let’s be done with all this bloody snow and bring on Spring!)
Title image by @thiaandbug