Women in London 2012: Who to Watch

Women in London 2012: Who to Watch

July 28, 2012

By Meg Heery

(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 dont care if its 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 whos doping and whos not, tomorrow. For today, lets just suspend disbelief, have a good laugh at Danny Boyles 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 shes still only a teenager.

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

Weightlifting. Sarah Robles lives with pain. Born with Madelungs 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 510 and 269 pounds, shes a passionate body-image activist out to shatter the thin = beautiful myth. She blogs about it and raises funds to support her training at prettystrongblog.blogspot.com. 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 womens 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 yknow, Misty May Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings have been doing their thing for almost a dozen years now. Theyve got kids. And theyre still kicking everybodys 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, USASwimming.org; for Sarah Robles, Buzzfeed)