Yes, I’m a woman, so you may consider me to be biased on this topic, but I think the facts are here to support me. In the past few days there’s been a lot of discussion about both “Own the Podium” and the significant imbalance between medals won at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics by Canadian female vs. male athletes.
I know the Olympics aren’t over yet, and there are still a few medals to be won, but the stats are trending overwhelmingly in favour of the Canadian women. As of this morning, Canada has won 17 medals, 13 of which have been won by women, 3 by men, and one by the pairs ice dancing. That’s over 75% of our medal count from the women. To put this in perspective, of the 206 Canadian athletes at the 2010 Winter Games, 91 are women (44%). If you look at our record gold medal count as of today, 5 of the 8 (63%) are thanks to our female athletes – 75% if you factor in the pairs ice dancing! So, the Canadian women are out-performing the Canadian men in absolute and relative terms!
(This is a trend that is continuing from the 2006 Turin Olympics, when 16 of the 24 medals we won (67%) came from the women, at a time when their proportional representation was lower than at these Olympics.)
So what’s going on here? Is there an explanation for this apparent “gender bias” when it comes to our medal count? Do we have better female athletes than male athletes? Are the women simply better prepared than the men? Are the women handling the pressure better than the men? Or as one female athlete wondered, was there simply less pressure on the women to perform and deliver medals? Or is it something else? Luck?
I can’t say I have the answer to this, nor do I think anyone else does, but it sure begs some interesting questions. IF our female athletes are better than our male athletes, why is this? IF it’s that women – or our female athletes in particular – are better prepared than the men, why is this? What is to be learned from the women and how they’ve trained/prepared? IF it’s that our female athletes are handling the pressure better than the men, why is this? And, what can we learn from it? Finally, IF it’s that there was less pressure placed on our female athletes – or perhaps expectations to perform and deliver medals – why was that? And, was it right? If it was something else, what was it?
The “Own the Podium” debate is a whole other topic, but it sort of begs the question…IF it is deemed to have been a failure, then was it either only a failure as relates to the Canadian male athletes, or simply less of a failure when it came to the Canadian female athletes. Maybe “Own the Podium” was in fact a success?!? But how do you measure success? Was it simply the overall medal count, which will certainly not put is in #1 position “owning the podium”? Was it bettering our gold medal count (which we have) – and putting us in #1 position (which we now share with the U.S. and Germany)? Maybe it WAS a success? And, did we have the right expectations?
Regardless, I think we need to see what we can learn from all of this, to make us better in the future, to live up to our expectations – or to re-set our expectations so they are more realistic. After all, it is all about expectations.
I will say that the pride we saw in these Olympics was a breath of fresh air for us Canadians who are typically so understated. Maybe we went too far, but maybe not. Oh and the Canadian women have come a long way…baby! (And, yes I can say this because I’m a woman…cliché and all!)
What do you think about all this?