Author: Rietta Steffen (#htty intern)
After more than 100 years of fighting to overcome gender inequality, the Olympics is still a place seen to hide women from the spotlight in one main event–the decathlon. The decathlon was first introduced as a two-day event during the Olympic Games in 1912, however, the series of ten track-and-field events is only allowed to be competed in by men, and this continues to be the case, even today, 100 years later.
The Olympic decathlon is the chance to be crowned the “world’s greatest athlete” and women deserve an opportunity to claim that title as well, rather than being restrained to the seven events of the Olympic heptathlon. Some committees claim to have concerns about women competing in a decathlon, most of which can be found on theHeavenToTheYeah.Com FAQ page, but a big concern is that a decathlon for women would be “too rough” on the female body and that their endurance would not be able to manage the terrain of a two-day, ten-event competition; men also pass out during these events. It is 2022… no longer are women allowing themselves to be seen as inferior; no longer are they standing in the background watching as men can take the grand stage and claim a title all must have the chance to compete for. Women across the globe are joining forces behind Jordan Gray’s “Let Women Decathlon Movement,” which started in February of2021, people are signing the petition and speaking out in hopes to invoke change and encouraging the IOC to allow female athletes the opportunity to show their skills on the field alongside their male counterparts.
Women like Pat Daniels Connolly, a two-time Olympic medalist and women’s decathlon advocate for fifty-five years; Austra Skujytė of Lithuania, an Olympic heptathlon medalist and women’s decathlon world-record breaker in 2005; and Cassandra Evans, a young Belgian decathlete record holder, are a few of the many women standing with Gray in hopes of creating new opportunities for young, future women athletes, and the possibility of competing for the World’s Greatest Athlete title in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Women, like Stacy Dragila–the first-ever Olympic gold medalist in the women’s pole vault back in 2000–are making claims like “the heptathlon is really too easy for elite women” (Gretschel, 2018), showing that it is time to change the times. BeccaPeter–co-founder of the Women’s Decathlon Association–also states, “The heptathlon…is an amazing event, but it is less demanding than the decathlon, which is widely seen as finding the world’s best all-round athlete. What kind of message does that send to women and girls?” (The Guardian).
Peter is right–what is the message being sent to women and young females around the world, being raised in a society which teaches the destruction caused by inequality, but then turning around and seeing the gender discrimination in world-renown games like the Olympics? While women’s decathlon is in place at the highest levels of sport in some areas like the USATF and World Athletics, women continue to gather around the world, supporting and fighting for their own shot at World’s Greatest by standing to end gender inequality in the Olympics, signing petitions, speaking out, and raising awareness to change the times ahead for all and show change is possible, creating global change and equal chance for an equitable future.