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The rise of women in male-dominated sports

posted on Wednesday, 19th August 2015 | find under Fitness

Inspiring, progressive and unfaltering – three words to describe the handful of women cementing their place at the top of sporting fields traditionally reserved for men. Some of them we’re lucky enough to call Sweaty Betty Ambassadors, including F1 star Susie Wolff. Others spend their spare time modelling for Sweaty Betty – such as Animal-sponsored skateboarder Stefani Nurding. And some are always there to inspire and motivate us through our own workouts and adventures. No more shall our gender define the activities at which we excel. Here are just a few names Sweaty Betty credits for helping to pave the way for women to join their male counterparts among the sporting elite… 

Sweaty Betty female fitness icons

Clockwise from left: footballer Fara Williams (Instagram: @fara44), snowboarder Jenny Jones (Instagram: @jennyjonessnow) and a fiercely fit Tough Mudder contestant (Instagram: @tough_mudder)

Patti McGee – Skateboarding

One of the pioneers of women's skateboarding, Patti became the US Women’s National Skateboard Champion way back in 1964, and hasn’t looked back since. Now at the age of 70, she continues to skateboard and runs her own skateboard company called The Original Betty Skateboard Co. In 2010 Patti became the first female ever to be inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.

Kayley Ashworth – BMX

At 25 years old, British BMX girl Kayley Ashworth is already making a name for herself as a sporting trailblazer. Sponsored by prestigious bike brand Diamondback and recently dominating a double page spread in the pages of Women’s Health magazine, she is proving to have serious traction as an inspiration to both men and women. During an interview with online magazine Ride UK BMX, she tells how she quite literally stumbled into her profession. “I used to walk home from school through the local park which had a skatepark and I was dared to drop in a mini. I did it successfully, even if the bike wasn’t in the best shape. After that, I begged my dad for a BMX, which we purchased from eBay and painted pink and black!” At Sweaty Betty, we like that Kayley is a woman who knows her own style and makes breaking boundaries a part of everyday life. Her mantra? “Bones heal. Let’s fly!”

Jenny Jones – Snowboarding

Another female sporting legend and a household name celebrated by women across the world, Jenny Jones made history in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi when she became the first Briton (man or woman) to win an Olympic medal in snowboarding. By bagging a bronze medal in the slopestyle event, she created a huge buzz and inspired millions of women to elevate their winter passions from an occasional hobby to a serious sporting pursuit. Hers will be the name that rings in the minds of hopeful medallists as Team GB arrives in PyeongChang South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Fara Williams – Football

A lesser known name, but not for long. Fara Williams is one of England’s finest female footballers, and recently achieved the spotlight during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. 31 years old and very much in the prime of her game, she is entrusted by the Football Association to perform as both a talented central midfielder and a professional skills coach to other athletes within the association. Could a widening audience be a sign of changing times? We think so – and the record crowd of 45,619 fans who paid to attend the 2014 England vs Germany women’s friendly held at Wembley would probably agree.

Everyday athletes

If these talented athletes teach us one thing, it’s not to doubt the place for women in sport. Every day, more women take their sporting passions to the next level and help to open doors for other women and younger generations with a penchant for hard-earned sweat and life-changing success.

Everywhere we’re surrounded by reminders that gender does not define capability. From online communities championing the use of #StrongNotSkinny, to the real-life warriors bolstering the number of female contestants taking part in traditionally male challenges like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race. In the four years from 2011 to 2015, female participation in the Spartan Race has grown by 15%, while nearly 4X more women signed up for Tough Mudder this year compared with 2012.

Whether you love to be the star of your favourite fitness class or throw yourself into a muddy basin in the name of exercise, Sweaty Betty is here to help you bowl over any obstacles that stand in your way. Unless, of course, you find yourself in the middle of an obstacle course – in which case it’s best to climb, duck or dodge them as instructed.

Contributor: Laura Harris

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