GIRL POWER: EQUAL OPPORTUNITY IN SPORT
Powered by: Lesley Visser, Hall of Fame Sportscaster, United States
Meryl Davis, Two-time World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist, Ice Dancing, United States
Nadia Comaneci, Five-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Gymnastics, Romania
Elana Meyer, Olympic Silver Medalist and former half marathon world record holder, Director, Sport, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Indira Kaljo, Professional Basketball Player, President of Global Aktivne, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Four legendary female athletes gathered to explore how sport helped them overcome their own individual challenges.
The obstacles that faced them were as intimidating as they were unique, ranging from war to political oppression, and apartheid to dyslexia.
“Through my experiences, I have met so many women with everyday struggles and they want to be able to express themselves and be free in their activities – that is why we are here,” said professional basketball player Indira Kaljo. “We really can make a difference, one woman at a time.”
Kaljo not only had to overcome the trauma of fleeing her native Bosnia & Herzegovina aged just four to escape conflict, but she also battled to ensure that athletes are now allowed to compete while wearing religious headwear.
Kaljo, a practicing Muslim who is also president of Global Aktivne, now plays wearing a hijab, along with thousands of other women worldwide thanks to her hugely ambitious efforts.
Ice dancer Meryl Davis, a two-time World Champion and Olympic gold medalist, had very different struggles to overcome.
Davis battled through school with dyslexia, but found her solace in sport which gave her the confidence to succeed.
“I always found that, unlike in the classroom, my work and my effort on the ice was always reflected in my progress,” she said.
A recurrent theme in the discussion, which was moderated by Hall of Fame sportscaster Lesley Visser, was the empowerment sport gives to women.
“I just felt free – I didn’t realize I was breaking down boundaries,” Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci told a captivated audience.
The five-time Olympic gold medalist fled Romania just weeks before the 1989 revolution to ensure she could use her outstanding natural ability to fulfil her potential, and never looked back.
Olympic Silver Medalist and former half marathon world record holder Elana Meyer was also cruelly denied the opportunity to compete at the highest level for many years.
Apartheid in South Africa meant she could not attend the Olympic Games in 1984 or 1988 despite her undeniable ability.
But that all changed in the early nineties, allowing Meyer to finally secure an Olympic medal. And she urged women across the globe to take a leaf out of her mother’s book.
“I grew up in an ‘I can’ situation. My mom said I can be anything I want to be, fly as high as I want to fly, and that is what gave me the freedom,” she recalled.
As different as their backgrounds were, all four panelists agreed that sports has the ability to empower women across the globe.