Olympics 2020 - The Success of Young Women Sends a Powerful Message.
Young female athletes have shone in Tokyo and will inspire girls to take up sport.
The performance and conduct of young female athletes during the Tokyo Olympic Games will inspire girls to take part in sport and show them that struggle “is all part of the journey”, campaign groups have said.
Sky Brown became Team GB’s youngest ever summer medalist when she won a skateboarding bronze aged just 13, while 19-year-old Keeley Hodgkinson set a new British record in women's 800m at her first Olympics.
In Taekwondo, 22-year-old Lauren Williams won silver in her debut Games after making enormous sacrifices to reach Tokyo, with her mother taking a career break to move to Manchester and live in a caravan for 18 months to allow her to train.
Jordan Guard, former Welsh national football star and founder of the Women's Sport Alliance, said that the "visibility of the young female sports starts would lead girls watching to think: 'gosh, I can do that!'"
"It will inspire a tone of future female athletes but will also inspire young boys, mums and dads," Ms Guard said. "It's also going to change perceptions of female athletes for young boys."
"When I was younger, I was looking up to male players like David Beckham. I probably would have been a lot more motivated and inspired if they had been female. I am so jealous that young girls have such amazing role models that are women," she added.
"In this Olympics, 48.8% of athletes are female. In the 1900 Olympics in Paris, it was 2.2%. That means if you switch on the TV to watch the Olympics, you've got nearly a 50/50 chance of seeing female athletes there. I don't think people always understand how much that can inspire."
Cathy Long, Head of Policy at Women In Sport, also praised the conduct of athletes like Sky Brown, who came back from a handful of falls in the skateboarding final to clinch the bronze medal, saying they provided "inspirational" role models for young girls.
"They've shown that it is ok to be strong but it's also ok to struggle. That striving is all part of the journey," Ms Long said.
"Sky Brown showed in one event how you can give it your all, fall, get up again with a smile, try again and succeed. And that whole community of girls skateboarding have shown how you can compete against each other with grace and friendship. The way that collectively supported each other in both their triumphs and defeats was truly inspirational."
Speaking after her medal win earlier this week, Brown had said: “I hope I inspire some girls. I feel like people think I’m too young and I can’t do it but if you believe in yourself, you can do anything. I believed in myself and I’m here.”
Kate Dale, who leads This Girl Can, a Sport England campaign to encourage women to get active and will speak at the Why Sports Physical Activity of Women and Girls webinar, said that the success of female athletes “will have sparked the interest of many girls in sport.”
“From Sky Brown kickflipping to Bethany Shriever surging for the line to win BMX gold, the visibility of women’s sport in Tokyo has been amazing and will have sparked the interest of many girls in sport,” she said. “Seeing so many women and girls achieve so much sends a powerful message to the world: that sport is a space for women and girls too.”
However, she said that more needed to be done to make sure that more women and girls feel able to engage in grassroots sports.
“We have to keep in mind that for many women and girls, engaging with a sport or activity is not about being the best or winning medals: it is about enjoyment and wellbeing,” she said. “There are lots of the emotional and practical barriers that stop many women and girls from getting active, like fear of judgement or safety concerns. And getting active also depends on having opportunities to in the right location, at the right cost.”