Why ignore champion women rowers?

While most of America is focused on the darling gymnasts and the freakishly talented swimmers from my great state of Maryland, there’s almost no coverage of America’s greatest athletic success story: the U.S. women’s rowing team! For 10 years the women’s coxed Eight has dominated international competition. In this this wonderful New York magazine article there’s a complete story about their wins. But there’s almost no coverage of their phenomenal racing during the Olympics. What gives? Is this more of the sexism that’s been on display? Like the Chicago Tribune story that, instead of reporting on the Bronze Medal winner’s success, mentioned her only as the wife of a Bears football player.

I’m proud to be a long-time member of U.S. Rowing. I’m old enough to remember when it was the National Association of Amateur Oarsmen, but fortunately that name changed as more and more women poured into boathouses and insisted on equal treatment. Why hasn’t the coverage of women’s sports on network TV kept up with the times? Is it because they’re not wearing sparkly outfits? Come on, NBC, you can do better!

Speaking of outfits: one of my coaches participated in the 1976 Olympics, the very first one that allowed women to compete in rowing. In one way, we’ve come pretty far: she told us that their uniforms for the Opening Ceremony consisted of a purse and a hysterically funny and anachronistic undergarment – a girdle! Can you imagine asking Olympic rowers to wear something designed to hold in a fat stomach?! It makes me angry to think that our news coverage hasn’t gotten much past this era.

I am so proud to be part of a sport that offers such powerful, confident women a chance to compete and dominate on the world stage. I know that they don’t look anything like me – or like most Americans, for that matter – but they are my heroes. I have some idea what it takes to get to their level (and I don’t mean height), and I wish that they were getting the respect that they deserve.

So here’s to Katelin Snyder, Amanda Elmore, Eleanor Logan, Meghan Musnicki, Tessa Gobbo, Lauren Schmetterling, Emily Regan, Kerry Simonds, and Amanda Polk.


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Eva K. Sullivan teaches English Language Learners in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland. She was an English Language Fellow with U.S. Department of State during the 2017-2018 school year, working with the Ministry of Education in Laos, Southeast Asia. She writes short stories, personal essays, and has completed a memoir about her experiences as an expat in West Africa in the 1990s.

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