Monday, August 18, 2008

America makes a big splash in Beijing

On 8/8/08, at 8:08pm in Beijing, China the 2008 Summer Olympics began. Even before they started there was a buzz in the United States about Michael Phelps being a powerhouse swimmer and that he may even win 8 gold medals in one Olympic games, breaking the previous world record of 7. If he could do this he would be considered the greatest olympian of all time. On Saturday, August 17 around 10:30pm Eastern Time Michael Phelps won his 8th gold medal. I believe just as much as the next person that Michael Phelps deserves all the praise that he is getting, in fact, I was sitting on the couch anxiously clapping and cheering as he approached the finish line in the Medley Relay (an event which the USA Men have never lost). I have no doubt that almost every American knows about this great accomplishment and I bet they are proud. And if you only know about this accomplishment but have seen no coverage on his wins, dont you worry because he is appearing in commercials, mini-interviews, late night interview specials, and I am sure you can even catch a show ALL ABOUT MICHAEL.

I wonder how many people know about Natalie Coughlin's achievements at this years Summer games. Natalie is a member of the 2008 USA Women's Swimming Team. She accomplished two firsts at this Olympics -- she is the first woman to ever win a 100m backstroke gold in two consecutive Olympics, but even more notably she is the first American female athlete to win six medals in one Olympics! The only time I ever heard this mentioned was as she stood with her team after a relay and it was only mentioned in passing by the interviewer. Also, Dara Torres, a 41-yr old swimmer competed in her 5th olympics making her the only swimmer to ever compete in 5 Olympics, and did I mention she was 41?

The point I am trying to bring out here is that woman continue to be underrepresented and overlooked. There has not been one special that I have seen about Natalie or Dara. Sure, the Olympic coverage will mention there accomplishments, but typically only when they are about to race. Michael Phelps plastered every station and website. I want to know more about Natalie and Dara and I want them to get credit where credit is due. Ever since Title IX was passed many people assumed that women were beginning to get the rights they deserved. This is not the case, and many women's sports still get less funding that men's sports in high schools and colleges across the nation. 

So, in the next few weeks when you are having a conversation with someone about Michael Phelps just casually ask them if they have heard of Natalie Coughlin and her accomplishments. You may just be surprised how few people actually do. Until next time....

"We can do no great things. Only small things with great love." -Mother Teresa


Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D. said...

Ironically enough, I just picked up the Wall Street Journal and read an article on the first page of today's edition about the millions of dollars Michael Phelps is going to make in the coming months......

As a former coach and still somewhat active participant, swimming is my hands down favorite sport. It's great to see the media coverage and hear a buzz of excitement about World Records and personal bests. How much better it would be if young girls could see their role models get equal air time for their achievements!

Megan M. Whitehead said...

On that note Cheryl, after I read your post I couldn't stop thinking about the inequality between men and women's sports. I decided to "google" Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin to see the differences in how they were portrayed. Michael's google search turned up videos of his win's, coverage on his accomplishments of this Olympics and a few pictures of him without his shirt on.

The third website listed for Natalie grabs your attention with "Natalie Coughlin Pictures - Pics of the sexy women of sports." The first article listed under the NEWS section of the google page focuses on her body again, instead of her great swimming accomplishments at the Summer 2008 Olympics. This headline reads, "What it takes to get a body like Natalie Coughlin."

Not only is the media giving more coverage to Michael, but the coverage Natalie is getting surrounds her body and not her talents as a swimmer.