The Olympics have returned. Every two years, people around the globe sit in front of their televisions, engrossed in the intense fencing matches and beautiful gymnastics performances broadcasted. However, these athletes from the Rio Olympics captured on screens have changed drastically from the Olympics of the past. When the Olympics first began in 1896, it was difficult, if not impossible, to see women competing. But this year, the percentage of female athletes in the Olympics has hit its highest ever: 45%.
Women are being better represented in the Olympics, and this is becoming a positive signal for equal gender representation at an event which embraces diversity and international community. Furthermore, many of these women are triumphantly making history at the event and receiving the rightful praise for doing so.
1) Simone Biles
Simone Biles is a 19 year old gymnast from Team USA who has been sweeping the medals for gymnastics. She won gold medals for Women’s Team All-Around, Individual All-Around, Women’s Vault, and Women’s Floor Exercise. For Women’s Beam, she won a bronze, giving her five Olympic medals from this summer.
With her incredible performances and accomplishments at her first Olympics, she has been called the best female gymnast of her time. Furthermore, as an African-American gymnast, her amazing achievements have been recognized by citizens and media as an important symbol of the empowerment of young African-American women.
2) Yusra Mardini
Another important development in the Olympics this year is the creation of a team of Refugee Olympic Athletes. Yusra Mardini, an 18 year-old refugee from Germany, once swam for her life, but now is swimming at the Olympics to represent those who had to flee their homes for safety. In the past, she had jumped out of a sinking boat and pulled it to shore to save herself and her family while seeking refuge. Now, in Rio, she seeks to swim for a different purpose, as she explained to The Guardian. She said, “I want refugees to be proud of me. I want to encourage them.”
She hasn’t won many medals this summer, but what matters more to many people is her courage to participate in such a worldwide event.
Her and her team’s participation at the Olympics conveyed an important message that the media recognizes as revolutionary to the event, and meaningful in celebrating the diversified participants and their passions.
These two athletes are only a few of the many female stars that participated in the Rio Olympics this summer. There are so many more athletes who competed with their full effort, striving to bring awareness to the empowerment of women. It seems to be the general trend that the rights and representation of women in the Olympics is going upwards, even if it may be a gradual change. Many feminists, refugees, fellow athletes, and many Olympic enthusiasts around the world are looking forward to the promising future of the event.