It is not that women lack any of the
abilities men possess, but that their fine and
sensitive nature see them tasked with greater
and more difficult endeavors.
“She has fantastic chess talent, but she is, after all, a woman…No woman can sustain a prolonged battle,” according to Grand Master (GM) Garry Kasparov speaking about Hungarian GM Judit Polgar in the early 2000s.
Shortly after, Polgar beat the Russian (who became a Croatian national in 2014) and chess World Champion from 1985-2000, during a match between “Russia and the “Rest of the World” team in 2002; in what was his first ever defeat by a female opponent and a well-deserved lesson.
Polgar, who became National Champion at 15, also beat other renowned GMs such as India’s Viswanathan Anand, former World Champion; Gata Kamsky of the United States; and Latvian Alexei Shirov, and despite retiring in August 2015 the following year she was still the number one ranked chess player in the world with an Elo rating of 2,675.
A HISTORIC THROW
Born in Baracoa, Guantánamo Province, Javelin thrower María Caridad Colón was responsible for one of Cuba’s most important sporting achievements, when her 68.40 meter throw in the Moscow 1980 Games saw her become the first Latin American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
What is more, she also features on the list of the 100 most outstanding Cuban athletes of the 20th century.
Women’s participation in the construction of a new society was a key part of the new path being laid out by the Revolution, with notable achievements made in the field of sports, a sector to which Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro dedicated much time and attention.
From the very beginning of the struggle, Fidel knew how important it was to promote the role of women, reaffirming the confidence he had always had in them as early as the liberation war in the Sierra Maestra, with the creation on September 4, 1958, of the Las Marianas platoon, whose work is carried on today by those women leading the struggle in different spheres of national life.
When it comes to recalling names and important feats, one always runs the risk of forgetting some key person – but with no intention of listing all the achievements of the island’s sporting movement – we shall mention some essential figures linked to two practically unknown disciplines before the triumph of the Revolution: Judo and Volleyball.
Regarding the former, names such as Driulis González, Legna Verdecia, Odalys Revé, Sibelis Veranes and Idalis Ortiz stand out; all of whom have won Olympic gold medals. Meanwhile, volleyball players Mireya Luis, Idalmis Gato, Lily Izquierdo, Regla Bell, Marlenis Costa, Ana Ibis Fernández and Regla Torres (best player of the 20th century), are all members of Cuba’s gold medal-winning team in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.
Yumilka Ruiz (gold medal in 1996 and 2000 and bronze in 2004) replaced Mireya as team captain, and both were also members of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, which has been working hard over recent years to promote women in leadership roles within the organization.
The almost endless list of achievements by stellar female athletes also includes other competitions such as the Central American and Caribbean Games, World Championships, Pan American Games and World Cups, as well as countless other regional and global events.
Of all these prize winning athletes, sprinter Ana Fidelia Quirós deserves a special mention, who, after recovering from an accident at home in 1993, which left her with burns to 38% of her body, returned in November that same year to win silver at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Ponce, Puerto Rico. What is more, two years later, the “Caribbean Storm” as she was known, won gold in the 800 meters in the Gothenburg World Championships in Sweden, with a time of 1:56.11 minutes.
BARRIERS & DISCRIMINATION
Often women face barriers and discrimination due to stereotypes or cultural and religious reasons, like the idea that playing sports affects a woman’s “femininity,” for example. Regarding this issue, Granma spoke with weightlifter Marina Rodríguez during the 2016 Río de Janeiro Games.
Asked whether prejudice continues to exist around women’s weightlifting, she responded: “Those who think that weightlifting makes you lose your femininity are wrong, we members of the national pre-selection team take great care when it comes to this issue; we are always well-presented, and like to look our best… I’m very proud to belong to this sport because we will continue rising and breaking taboos.”
On the flip side, there are still countries where women are banned from participating in certain sports. For example, in the lead up to Beijing 2008, a group of activists called on the IOC to ensure that Saudi Arabia comply with the organization’s anti-discrimination regulations and allow women to compete. In the end, however, the country was represented by 14 male athletes in four disciplines during the event.
The very first Olympic Games in Greece 1896, was a men-only event. Women only began to participate in the Paris 1900 Games, in the tennis and golf events, representing only 2% of competitors.
Since then, the presence of women has gradually increased, with females representing 44% of the almost 11,000 competitors during the London 2012 Games. Meanwhile, the fact that every delegation featured at least one female athlete saw the Games heralded as the “Women’s Games.”
Today, the Olympic Games feature events exclusively for women, such as rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and softball; while female competitors also represent 45 out of 51% of competitors in the triathlon, table tennis, beach volleyball, taekwondo, diving, and indoor volleyball events.
A look at the history of women’s ever increasing participation in the Olympic Games shows that the first major step forward came in Amsterdam, 1928, with women representing 9.5% of competitors, in contrast to the previously mentioned 2% in Paris 1900. This figure had risen to 20% by the Montreal 1976 Games, reaching between 45-46% in the Río de Janeiro 2016 edition.
It is a well known fact that in today’s world the role of women in sport doesn’t receive the attention it should.
Thus, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) recently called on media outlets to provide greater coverage of the results of the 2018 Winter Olympics, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Underestimating women in sport only reveals humanity’s continued shortcomings.
FEMALE ATHLETES AMONG CUBA’S TOP 100 SPORTS PEOPLE OF THE 20TH CENTURY
Amarilis Savón (Judo)
Ana F. Quirós (Athletics)
Ana I. Fernández (Volleyball)
Dayma Beltrán (Judo)
Deborah Andollo (Free Diving)
Diadenis Luna (Judo)
Estela Rodríguez (Judo)
Driulis González (Judo)
Legna Verdecia (Judo)
Lily Izquierdo (Volleyball)
María C. Colón (Athletics)
Maritza Martén (Athletics)
Marlenis Costa (Volleyball)
Mercedes Pérez (Volleyball)
Mireya Luis (Volleyball)
Regla Bell (Volleyball)
Sibelis Veranes (Judo)
Taimaris Agüero (Volleyball)
Yumilka Ruiz (Volleyball)
Regla Torres (Volleyball)
Odalis Revé (Judo)
deportes1: Photo: Jorge Luis González
deportes2: Photo: Archive
deportes3: Photo: Archive
deprotes4: Photo: Ricardo López Hevia