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American Women Athletes Four: The Disability Post

We’ll start off with a general overview of the current situation of women athletes who are disabled.

Gender Equality in Athletics and Sports:Disabled Women in Sports

Getting interested and involved in sports is difficult for women and girls with disabilities because of the limited exposure they get to sports, especially when they are young. Those who become disabled during their adult life, by things like accident or illness, are many times already involved in athletics. When that is the case, they are highly likely to remain active in sports.

Disabled athletes often need to feel empowered in order to get involved in athletics. Nondisabled people learn sports primarily through their families when they are children. Athletes with disabilities, however, often attribute their participation and success to self-motivation and friends. Women athletes who become disabled later in life already have a support system of teachers, coaches, friends, and partners who still encourage them. Disabled athletes with encouraging, supportive parents are often leaders in their sport and community. They believe their success in leadership is a result of good parenting.

The Media: Sports UnIllustrated Information is scarce when it comes to women with disabilities and even more limited for disabled women in sport. The national news rarely features women athletes who have overcome disability barriers. This lack of attention creates few disabled female athlete role models. Even television commercials that show disabled athletes almost always choose male models.

Subjects like sports psychology and sociology largely ignore disability in textbooks and journals. Even women’s studies and women’s athletics can be faulted for poor coverage of disabled female athletes. Women who participate in sport and who are also disabled are rarely mentioned in these two arenas.MORE

Women, Disability and Sport: Unheard Voices PDF

The purpose of this research was to permit the voice of women athletes with a disability who participate in elite sport to be heard. By illuminating the issues and experiences of the female athlete, we can begin to reveal her view of reality within sport and the context within which she participates. Research of this nature is the first step in the process of identibing and addressing the inequities and barriers in disability sport facing present and future female athletes.


Disabled Women Push Barriers in Sports 2006 article

(WOMENSENEWS)–When people ask wheelchair racer Jean Driscoll, the eight-time champion of the Boston Marathon in the wheelchair division, about the obstacles faced by female athletes with disabilities, she talks about Sharon Hedrick.

In 1984, Hedrick, a wheelchair track competitor, won two gold medals in the inaugural wheelchair exhibition at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In doing so, Hedrick also broke the 800-meter women’s wheelchair race record by almost three seconds.

“This wasn’t the Paralympics,” said Driscoll, referring to the competitions for elite athletes with physical disabilities. “This was the real Olympic Games. She was the first female wheelchair athlete to ever win a gold medal. Ever.”

But it wasn’t the record-breaking Hedrick whose picture made it onto the Wheaties cereal box, it was a man: wheelchair racing pioneer George Murray.MORE

Women Wheelchair Athletes: Competing against Stereotypes

Just as the media tends to see people with disabilities as not having the ideal body, it also tends to frame female athletes as “sexually different” (Hall, 1996). With this being said, it is also likely that female athletes who also have a disability face a double bind by being caught in two minorities (Blinde & McCallister, 1999; DePauw & Gavron, 1995). Not only are they excluded because they are female, they are excluded on another level for their disability (Blinde & McCallister, 1999; Hardin & Hardin, 2005).

Several researchers have taken a strong focus on disability sports research; however, these studies are heavily centered on male athletes with disabilities …the purpose of this study was to re-narrate the opinions of women athletes with disabilities in order to understand the interlaced meanings embedded in disability, gender and sexuality (Garland-Thomson, 2002; Hargreaves & McDonald, 2000) in sports media, and to allow women’s attitude and perceptions toward women athletes with disabilities to be heard. In order to acknowledge these perceptions, a cultural feminist approach was considered most useful.MORE

A bit of history…Girls and women with disabilties in sports

It is a little-known fact that the history of girls and women with disabilities in competitive sport dates back to the early 1900s and has continued to evolve throughout the 20th century. For the most part, this history is somewhat difficult to trace separately from the general history of disability sport, which has been, until recently, nonspecific in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and type of impairment (DePauw, 1994; DePauw & Gavron, 1995). In much the same way that the history of sport has been written primarily through the eyes of male athletes and their sport experiences, the history of disability sport has also been recorded through the eyes of male athletes with disabilities, or more specifically, through the experiences of white males with spinal cord injuries who used wheelchairs for competition (DePauw & Gavron, 1995).

Female Athletes with Disabilities in the Olympic Games. Two women with disabilities have gained significant attention after they competed in the Olympic Games. Liz Hartel (post-polio, Denmark) won a silver medal in dressage at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Neroli Fairhall, representing New Zealand, competed in archery from her wheelchair during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In addition to these women who participated in full medal Olympic events, male and female athletes with disabilities competed in their first exhibition events at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Exhibition events for the Winter Games (selected Alpine and Nordic events for physically impaired and for blind athletes) and for the Summer Games (1500 m wheelchair for men, 800 m wheelchair for women) continued through 1996. In 1992, Candace Cable (USA) and Connie Hansen (Denmark) became the only two women to compete in every Summer Olympic exhibition in a single year.MORE

Unfortunately its part of a preview foof a journal article , but an interesting snippet nonetheless.

All is by no means gloom and doom, however. Women athletes can compete nationally and internationally on several stages. Some of them include:Deaflympics (and here’s the US team results this year in Taipei and Interview with US athletes on the Taipei Deaflympic Games); Paralympics, and Special Olympics and Extremity Games (an X-Games for the disabled). In the Paralympics, women seem to compete in about 28 events out of 50, plus one mixed event, per 2007 paper Women in the 2006 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: An Analysis of Participation, Leadership and Media Coverage The paper goes on to dig deeply into the challenges and successes who want to become more involved in the Paralympics.

Increasing women’s participation in the Olympic Movement as participants and leaders has been a slow and challenging process. While the number of “events” open to female athletes has increased steadily during the past 30 years, the actual number of female Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games participants and the number of opportunities to medal within those events has yet to equal the number of male participants or medals.
The 2006 Paralympic Winter Games statistics are a good illustration of this discrepancy; while there are nearly an equal number of events open to female athletes, the total number of female Paralympic athletes was 99 of 474 or 20.9%. And, while women’s participation has attempted to “catch up” with small increases in participation numbers, men’s events and participation opportunities have continued to increase, thereby perpetuating and increasing the participation gap. For instance, there were 1,006 women (38.3%) and 1,627 men (61.7%) in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games compared to 886 women (36.9%) and 1,513 men (63.1%) in 2002. Interestingly, the same continued growth of men’s sport and, as a result, the perpetuation of the gender gap has occurred in U.S. high school and college sport in the wake of Title IX’s push for gender equity (BFHSA, 2006; NCAA, 2006).

While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made significant efforts to play a leadership role in growing women’s participation, it has had limited success in encouraging the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the 203 National Olympic Committees (NOC) and international winter sport federations (IF) to commit to gender equality. Women are also significantly underrepresented in the IOC and on IF boards of directors, the international governance structures that determine whether women’s sports are offered in Olympic, Paralympic and world championship competition.Click here hit download, and the paper comes up in Adobe

Here is a list of the entire US Paralympic team.

And Inclusion of Female Athletes in Vancouver 2010 Paralympics Ice Sledge Hockey For this Paralympics only, so far.

There’s not much that that I can find that has been written about women athletes’ participation in the Extremity Games, but here is an interview with Amy Purdy, wake boarder and Leia Listou, rock climber The Special Olympics suffers from that same problem. (In fact here are a lot of patting on the back articles about various orgs working with the atheletes and not much on the athletes in question.) if any of you know more about them feel free to share.


Women Entering, Winning in Sports for Disabled

Women and girls are a growing presence in competitions for disabled athletes.

The new U.S. National Amputee Hockey Team is the latest draw for these talented women, who otherwise would miss the chance to play with other disabled athletes.

Heather Ewaskiuk and Joanne Lukasik

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (WOMENSENEWS)–Competitive ice hockey is so second nature to Heather Ewasiuk and Joanne Lukasik that it’s impossible to tell they are both skating on prosthetic devices as they glide across the rink.

Amputees as well as athletes for most of their lives, Ewasiuk and Lukasik are the first and so far only female members of the startup U.S. National Amputee Hockey Team. Ewasiuk skates on an artificial left foot; Lukasik has prosthetic legs below the knees.

For Ewasiuk, 17, a high school senior in St. Paul, Minn., and Lukasik, 45, a wife and mother from Ortonville, Mich., their memberships on the team are just the latest accomplishments in athletic careers that have emphasized ability and determination over physical limitations. Their yearlong membership on the national amputee team marks the first time either has played officially with other amputees and with men

Women are the most active participants in winter Alpine skiing, and American women racers are winning far more medals than their male counterparts–in some cases sweeping the medals in Alpine and other ski events at the Paralympics that just ended in Salt Lake City, said Kathy Celo, operations and program services manager for Disabled Sports USA.

The organization, which supports handicapped athletes, received a $50,000 grant three years ago from the U.S. Olympic Committee that funded training camps, travel and expenses for female disabled athletes.

Disabled women “have really jumped into sports involvement in this past decade,” said Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA. “Their hesitancy to wear shorts and prostheses in public has been greatly reduced, and they are involved in volleyball, skiing, water skiing, sailing, tennis, cycling, track and field, weightlifting and many other sports.”MORE

Want proof of their winning ways? U.S. Women Win Sitting Volleyball Euro Cup


Sarah Reinertsen, author of the recently released memoir IN A SINGLE BOUND, lands on magazine covers nationwide this week on one of six different covers for the controversial first-ever “Body Issue” of ESPN THE MAGAZINE. A triathlete who holds the world record for the marathon for above-knee amputee women and was the first female leg-amputee to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, Reinertsen is one of 80 athletes to be featured in various states of undress for the magazine, and one of six chosen for the multiple covers.

From total invisibility to being sexified? Uh. Rather mixed reaction to this.

But here is an article on Amy Winters Triathlon Champion Also: Aimee Mullins, President of the Women’s Sport Foundation

Best Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award

The Best Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award, known alternatively as the Outstanding Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award, has been presented annually since 2005 to the female, irrespective of nationality or sport contested, adjudged to be the best athlete with a physical disability in a given calendar year. Between 2002 and 2004, the non-gender-specific Best Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award was presented, but the award was bifurcated by gender prior to the selection of the candidates for the 2005 ESPY Awards.
Balloting is undertaken over the Internet by fans from amongst choices selected by the ESPN Select Nominating Committee, and awards are conferred in June to reflect performance and achievement from the twelve months previous to presentation.List of winners