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Women in London 2012: Who to Watch

by Meg Heery

July 28, 2012

(Every day of the 2012 London Olympics, look to this space at On the Issues Magazine for updates about the Games through a feminist lens. Keeping us up to date is journalist Meg Ryan Heery, whose magazine credentials range from the art magazine DOT to Women's Health and Details, and who is (as she wrote in On the Issues Magazine earlier this month) also currently in training for the Hartford Marathon. On Twitter, you can check @megheery for her more frequent notes on the Games.— Ed.)

I am so excited for the Olympics! I don’t care if it’s all about the ads or the sponsorships or the ratings or blah blah blah; every two years I turn into a little kid with a serious case of idol worship. Put all cynicism aside for just a moment, then, and marvel at these unbelievable specimens. We can worry about who should wear what, and who’s doping and who’s not, tomorrow. For today, let’s just suspend disbelief, have a good laugh at Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, and be giddy sports fans for a while.

Swimming. My personal favorite, it takes up a huge chunk of the Games’ kick-off weekend. That is to say, Missy Franklin will take up a huge chunk of the weekend (the chunk not taken up by Michael Phelps). The 17-year-old American is, simply, so good it's 'sick.' Her speed and power are dazzling. And she’s still only a teenager.

What’s interesting about her is that instead of drawing comparisons to other great women swimmers, like Amanda Weir or Dara Torres or Janet Evans, she’s being compared to the greatest swimmer in recent memory, Michael Phelps. Dude.

Weightlifting. Sarah Robles lives with pain. Born with Madelung’s deformity, which causes pain in her forearms, she often has to power through even everyday movements most of us take for granted. Yet she is entering the Games as one of the top weightlifters in the sport.

Robles cleared 258kg in the trials. And at 5’10” and 269 pounds, she’s a passionate body-image activist out to shatter the thin = beautiful myth. She blogs about it – and raises funds to support her training – at She lifts on August 5, but you can watch the 48kg class compete on Saturday, July 28.

Track and Field. Dawn Harper squeaked into the 2008 Games and ended up taking gold in the 100m hurdles. After two knee surgeries and a long recovery, she returned to the track in April 2011 and nabbed a PR and a bronze medal in the World Championships. This year she will fly to the podium again, blurring past media darling Lolo Jones. Being out of the spotlight has its benefits. Round 1 of the 100m hurdles begins Mon., Aug. 6.

Boxing. Sadaf Rahimi, 18, trains in the Olympic stadium gym in Kabul, Afghanistan, where, some 10 years ago, the Taliban summarily executed women for so-called sins far less than throwing a man a left hook. She and her sisters, along with their teammates, were featured in the 2011 documentary The Boxing Girls of Kabul, a gorgeous and sensitive exploration not only of the political phenomenon of Afghan women’s boxing but also of the delicate relationship between fear and anger and how both are recognized and utilized, and ideally mastered, through sport.

  Oh yeah, and beach volleyball starts tomorrow. Media coverage has been predictable, even of real disputes like Should they have to wear bikinis?

Of course not. But y’know, Misty May Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings have been doing their thing for almost a dozen years now. They’ve got kids. And they’re still kicking everybody’s butts. Are they being sexualized or infantilized if they wear bikinis? Um, no. Only the media can do that.

Tomorrow, more on promising women athletes — some, like Rahimi, from places you might not expect.

(Photos: For Missy Phillips,; for Sarah Robles, Buzzfeed.)

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Meg Heery is a freelance editor and a regular contributor to the Jersey City Independent and NEW magazine.

See also:

Eleanor J. Bader, "Bodies in Motion: Physical Females Face Different Risks." On the Issues Magazine, Spring 2012.

Laura Shamas, "Leaping, Racing, Spearing: The Female Athlete Amazes in Myth." On the Issues Magazine, Spring 2012.

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, "Unlocking the Quiet Courage of Afghan Women." On the Issues Magazine, Winter 2010.

Susan Bandy, "Curious Tension: Feminism and the Sporting Woman." On the Issues Magazine, Spring 2012.


Elizabeth Willse posted: 2012-07-30 20:12:26

Watched women's foil this morning. Fast, fierce, and intense, but so classy with tradition. Full-contact chess. Just watched Arianna Errigo (Italy) beat American Lee Kiefer. Might have been yelling at my TV.

Elizabeth Willse posted: 2012-07-30 20:12:35

Also: I would love to know more about how NBC network decides which events to televise on which of its stations, versus streaming. Implicit ideas about what's likely to be popular/palatable vs obscure.

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