The benefits of an individual entering a non-traditional sport for his or her sex can be huge – but they are usually greater for society in general than for the athlete him/herself. Being the first person to break into a non-traditional sport would obviously be trying on the athlete, who would have to face the questioning and criticisms of media, fans, and even their fellow athletes. But one athlete’s determination and persistence can open up a whole new world to both athletes and spectators.
In the early 1900s, women did not participate much in figure skating competitions, partly because of the fact that they had to wear long, movement-hindering skirts. But some women did fight to participate. Eventually, when they were allowed to change certain rules (such as the one about wearing long skirts), women proved that they could compete with men. They were permitted to participate in competitions like the National Championships and the Olympics, and soon after that, women’s figure skating became an immensely popular sport. Today, it is traditionally one of the most-watched events of the Olympic games.
Similarly, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning invited female hockey goaltender Manon Rheaume to training camp in 1992. She played one exhibition game against St. Louis before being sent to the minors, but the publicity surrounding her stint with the National Hockey League did wonders for women in hockey. In the 1998 Olympics, women’s ice hockey was introduced as a new sport. The victory of the US Olympic team made the sport even more popular in the United States, and it is not uncommon today to see girls alongside the boys at youth hockey practices.
Desegregating a sport can also add a ne...
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...orts has been great in recent years. Women of the past broke barriers in sports such as track/field and figure skating, and women of recent times have broken the gender barriers in sports like basketball and hockey. Now, having women participate in sports like figure skating is not only totally natural, but a crucial part of major competitions such as the Olympics. Similarly, the sports like basketball and hockey will soon become integrated and will gain popularity among female athletes to the same degree. On the other hand, some male athletes are fighting for equality in typically female sports. As these pioneers break down gender barriers, they make way for the athletes of the future. While there are many issues that need to be resolved when barriers are broken, hopefully soon in the future all athletes will be looked at for their ability rather than their gender.
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