8 Women Breaking Olympic Barriers
By: Tajiya Holland
From the ancient games in Athens to the first modern Olympics, women were not welcome. Today, there is no shortage of qualified women in sports. According to the International Olympic Committee, “with almost 49% of participating athletes being women in the Tokyo Olympics, this year is the first-ever gender-balanced Olympic game in history!”
Although breaking records is enough reason to be recognized, many fail to realize that athletes are humans—enduring physical, mental, and emotional struggles while excelling in their field. This fact makes them all the more admirable.
Women today are proving naysayers wrong, making their mark loud and clear, and showing that they are even more than their physical skill sets. Keep reading to learn about a few of the many female athletes you should look out for in The Olympic Games in Tokyo starting July 23, 2021.
Allyson Felix and Quanera Hayes
Hayes crossed the finish line first in the 400m finals trial, securing her spot in Tokyo. Runner up, Felix has won six gold medals and is named the most decorated woman in U.S. track and field history. Many remember the moment after the race when they met with their children displaying motherhood at its finest. This moment attests to how their successes can teach children about overcoming adversity and not giving up. Bouncing back to be a top-tier athlete after giving birth is anything but easy.
Kokumai is the first U.S. karate Olympian. When karate became part of the games in 2016, Kokumai quit her job and moved to live with a host family to train. Giving true dedication, she traveled and competed across the globe in more than 20 competitions to earn her place. She has once had to endure training for 10 hours straight, only eating bananas and drinking water to fuel up periodically. As karate may not appear in future games, Kokumai hopes that she can demonstrate the benefits of the sport.
Biles has a goat encrusted on the back of her leotard for a reason. Aside from sending a message to her haters, she is the greatest of all time and the most decorated gymnast in history. Biles has skills named after her due to being the only one to perform them. What she brings to Tokyo will be jaw-dropping. As a survivor of sexual abuse from former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, she finds herself as an advocate for safe spaces for the voiceless. Biles also wants to remind kids that there’s no reason to be shameful of being good at something.
Sport climbing is making its debut in the Olympics this summer. Fans already engaged in the sport have their favorite climbers, but Condie has everyone’s eyes peeled. At the age of thirteen, to correct scoliosis, she had ten vertebrae fused. Now, at twenty-five years old, she still does not have the same mobility as most climbers, but her quick and aggressive strength takes her to the top. Condie uses her platform to speak out on social and racial inequalities while striving to show younger girls that it’s okay not to fit societal standards of femininity.
Thomas crossed the finish line first in the 200-meter trials race. She has the second-fastest time by 0.3 of a second in history for this event. She is a Harvard graduate with a degree in neurobiology, global health, and health policy. Now that she has Olympian checked off her list, she’ll be continuing to earn her master’s in epidemiology after the games. Having studied healthcare and endured personal health scares herself, Thomas is eager to play a part in fixing racial disparities within the health system.
The Hawaiian native is surfing towards gold, but there is much more to why she competes. Moore shares her time and knowledge in guiding young girls to live fearlessly and with love with her nonprofit Moore Aloha. She has been surfing since the age of five and when she was sixteen years old, she won a Triple Crown Pro title, leading her to world leagues. She entered many contests, some as the first and only female, but she was always up for the challenge. Over the years, she’s learned how to lose and how to regain confidence and focus. She aims to share her lessons with others and let them know they’re not alone.
Skateboarding is known more as a community-based hobby than an athletic competition. This year, it’s considered an Olympic sport. Duran is a street skater ranked in the female category as 6th in the world and 1st in the U.S. Although some fear that the new status of the sport could change the free-spirited expression, Duran sees this as an opportunity to financially support women in the field. Through her passion and determination, she works to grow her talent and the talents of other skaters. She dreams of the ratio between males and females within skating, eventually evening out.