By Jenna Fryer | Associated Press
Grace Luczak had left competitive rowing and taken a job in the private sector when a move toward gender equity at the Tokyo Games lured her back into a boat.
A women’s rowing event was added to create a more inclusive Olympics, which meant four additional seats on the U.S. team and a spot for Luczak.
“It’s really hard to make the decision to come back, to plan financially to be out of work for a year,” Luczak said. She thought a second consecutive Games wasn’t possible for a veteran until the seats were added.
“There are four more seats. Four. And it’s the first gender-equal Olympics. How can you not try?”
Most of the public attention goes to the big sports — gymnastics, swimming, track and field — but away from the spotlight, women from niche sports are being recognized and given an Olympics chance.
The International Olympic Committee added 18 new events to the Tokyo Games in a push toward gender equity. There are an equal number of women and men for every sport, excluding baseball and softball because of differing roster sizes.
The IOC said women’s participation in Tokyo will be 49%, up from 45% at Rio, a nearly even split with the men. The committee also noted that when women made their Olympic debut at the Paris Games in 1900, there were only 22 females out of 997 total athletes. Those pioneers competed across five sports, among them croquet and equestrian.
“Tokyo 2020 is predicted to be the most gender equal yet with female participation,” the IOC said.
The new opportunities come in several sports and several sizes: Great Britain, for example, is sending more women than men to the Olympics for the first time. In water polo, two additional teams were added, for a total of 10. It’s still two shy of the men’s tournament, but a win for the women’s movement.
Gains for women in many cases meant fewer opportunities for men. Boxing will feature 100 women in five classes, up from 36 fighters over three classes in Rio. But two men’s classes were dropped.
Weightlifting this year is equal at seven teams for both men and women, but reached the mark by dropping a men’s team. Women’s canoeing was added, but the men’s 200 and men’s kayak double 200 were dropped — a decision met with unfavorable reaction from male athletes when it was announced in 2016.
Erik Vlcek, who took silver with Slovakia in Rio, argued when women’s canoe was added that females should only kayak because females canoeing “doesn’t look good.” A Czech paddler joked canoeing is harmful to a woman’s posture.
The changes went through, to multiple sports, with rifle probably undergoing the most change. The sport lost men’s prone rifle, men’s free pistol and men’s double trap, all replaced by mixed team events in air rifle, air pistol and trap.
Luczak, now 32, knows she benefited at the expense of male teammates. The women’s coxless four returns to competition for the first time since …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports
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