And with that the 2020 Olympics are over, and Team USA walked away with the highest number of gold medals and overall wins thanks to our amazing women athletes. How far we have come.
When the modern-day Olympics began at the end of the 19th century, similar to ancient times, women were not allowed to compete in the games. It was believed to be inappropriate based on their role in society and that physiologically they wouldn’t be able to endure the events. Despite this, when second Olympics was held in Paris in 1900 bold women who wouldn’t take no for an answer competed in tennis, sailing, golf and croquet. Countess Hélène de Pourtalès, also known as Helen, would be the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for her skill in sailing. The glass ceiling in athletics was shattered and, in the century to come, women would hold their own in sports for the first time.
Since the start of the Olympics I’ve been glued to the TV as it always rekindles my own passion for sports. When I was younger and still living in India, sports was not considered a big and importance or special treatment was never given to children with athletic prowess. In pre-school I won my first medal doing a frog race and quickly discovered how much I loved the challenge, the thrill and pushing myself beyond my limits. All throughout school, athletics came naturally to me and both my parents and myself took no small amount of pride in the medals I brought home year after year. Before leaving competitive athletics behind, I was honored to compete at the national level for my long jump (and there are days I’d love to be able to make that distance!)
To this day, I am indebted to my parents who indulged my desire to compete and also could see the skills I had, encouraging me to excel with any resources they could scrounge up. They believed, as I do, that sports and the mental and physical discipline that comes with them teaches so much about life.
Having to work hard to practice and balance everyday tasks was never easy. Winning a race needs full focus and all your energy channeled towards the finish line. This concept is something I’ve been able to apply to my life juggling home, family and career. It is discipline in equal measures with dedication to set goals, attain them, not get lost in distractions never take your eye off the finish line. Winning isn’t always about medals, but it is always about achievement and betterment of your life, situation or even what you bring into the world as a woman in business.
For all the progress women have made in the last century, there are still those voices however who serve as critics and detractors. No one faced them and came out on top more so the past few weeks than Simone Biles. These games and massive pressure take their toll on even the most experienced athlete, withdrawing from the women’s team competition on July 27th. Then she received word that her aunt passed suddenly on August 2nd, and despite all of that she walked away with 2 more Olympic medals, making her a 7-time Olympic medalist. I have the deepest respect for Simone Biles who put her mental health before ego, desire or pressure to recenter herself and show her true mental strength.
The Olympics came to a close today and will go down in history as one of the most challenging games due to COVID in history. The President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach ended the games today with a powerful message of unity and peace.
“Over the last 16 days, you amazed us with your sporting achievements. With your excellence, with your joy, with your tears, you created the magic of these Olympic Games. You were faster, you went higher, you were stronger, because we all stood together – in solidarity. You were competing fiercely with each other for Olympic glory. At the same time, you were living peacefully together under one roof in the Olympic Village. This is a powerful message of solidarity and peace.”
Today I am proud to be woman, and I am proud to be an American.
Go Team USA!