SA’s sis­ters are do­ing it for them­selves

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT -

PER­FOR­MANCES on the in­ter­na­tional stage over the past few weeks once again high­lighted the po­ten­tial of South African women’s sport.

The SA net­ball team seem to be re-es­tab­lish­ing them­selves as one of the pow­er­houses of the sport, while road cy­clist Ash­leigh Mool­man-Pas­sio claimed her sec­ond over­all Giro del Toscana ti­tle.

Caster Se­menya raced to her record third world ti­tle while also be­com­ing only the sec­ond South African to win two medals in in­di­vid­ual events at the world ath­let­ics cham­pi­onships.

Two months ago row­ing’s Kirsten McCann be­came the first SA women to win a gold medal at the at the World Cup re­gatta in Lucerne.

In July the Proteas cricket team stopped one match short of reach­ing the Women’s World Cup fi­nal, while the na­tional women’s hockey team earned their places for next year’s World Cup in London.

Un­for­tu­nately th­ese women are the ex­cep­tion rather that the norm in a world dom­i­nated by men.

A com­mon thread in the suc­cess of th­ese women is that that they all have some sort of sup­port sys­tem both fi­nan­cially and struc­turally.

In 2013 Cricket SA (CSA) an­nounced its first-ever al­lo­ca­tion of na­tional con­tracts to six women’s crick­eters be­fore ex­tend­ing it to 14 a year later. This was made pos­si­ble largely thanks to Mo­men­tum’s in­vest­ment in women’s cricket since 2013.

In most cases South Africa’s pro­fes­sional sportswomen have to hold up a per­ma­nent job with sport tak­ing on a part-time role.

They are ex­pected to per­form against some of the world’s top teams where the ath­letes are pro­fes­sional ath­letes.

Se­menya would not have been able to reach in­cred­i­ble heights in track and field if she had to first worry about putting food on the ta­ble be­fore go­ing to the track.

McCann has had the ben­e­fit of a sys­tem where most of her needs are looked after even though she might not be earn­ing a salary.

The re­cent an­nounce­ment by Rand Mer­chant Bank (RMB) that it would spon­sor the na­tional row­ing squad will go a long way in giv­ing McCann and her fel­low row­ers some sort of se­cu­rity.

McCann high­lighted how South Africa is still stuck in pa­tri­ar­chal ways when it comes to sport.

“I think it has a lot to do with so­ci­ety and the ex­pec­ta­tions peo­ple place on women’s row­ing, some­one asked my fi­ancé how he feels about me do­ing so well at row­ing,” McCann said.

‘He said ‘it didn’t change who she is, I re­spect her as a per­son and as an ath­lete’.

“That for me kind of showed there is a slight dif­fer­ent ex­pec­ta­tions on men and women and it shouldn’t re­ally be like that. It is quiet scary that peo­ple still think like that.”

The na­tional net­ball team are not far from be­ing pro­fes­sional; half of the squad are play­ing semi-pro­fes­sional and pro­fes­sional net­ball in Eng­land, Aus­tralia, and New Zealand.

It once again points to the value of al­low­ing South African ath­letes to flour­ish with­out hav­ing to worry about how they will pay their bills.

South Africa’s fe­male ath­letes are clearly good enough to hold their own against the best of the rest of the world.

Sports fed­er­a­tions should make a greater ef­fort in en­sur­ing gen­der par­ity and al­low our fe­male ath­letes to per­form with­out the pres­sures of so­ci­etal norms.

Last week Proteas goal shooter Lenize Pot­gi­eter, who has been con­tracted to the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in New Zealand, spoke of her dis­be­lief that a net­ball play­ers could have an agent.

In an equal so­ci­ety such a no­tion should not be so bizarre. Pot­gi­eter and the rest of our top fe­male sportswomen de­serve to be re­warded for their ath­letic abil­ity like their male coun­ter­parts.

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