Hurdles fall in victory
Pearson lauds reversal of gendered finals
OLYMPIC champion Sally Pearson has applauded World Athletics bosses for vowing to end one of the most chauvinistic practices in sport, as part of a series of groundbreaking pledges to create greater gender equity.
Almost every sport in the world ends its major championship with a men’s final, while the equivalent women’s event serves as the entree to the main meal.
It’s been happening for generations — at the Olympic Games, world championships, tennis grand slams, and all the way down to junior sport — but one of the world’s biggest sports has moved to call it out.
At the next edition of the athletics world championships, in Oregon in mid-2022, the final gold-medal event will be the women’s 4x400m relay, subject to approval by the World Athletics Council — but consider it done.
To casual sports fans, that may not seem like a giant stride forward.
But for everyone involved in elite women’s sport, it’s a game-changer that will send a powerful message to other sporting bodies and TV executives.
“It is those finer details that I guess some people overlook and don’t think of as important,” retired hurdler Pearson, 34, said on Monday.
“But when a young girl is growing up in this generation, when gender equality is very important, she’s going to be asking questions like, ‘ Why do the men always go first or why are they always the last event to finish off a championship. Are they more special than us?’
“We certainly didn’t ask those questions when I was growing up because it didn’t cross our minds.
“But now that it’s been put to the forefront, we need to look at those finer details and make sure that women’s events and performances are celebrated as equally as the men’s performances.”
Breaking with outdated traditions is just part of a series of major initiatives that World Athletics has committed to changing.
Coinciding with International Women’s Day, track and field’s global body has also made a promise to empower women in leadership positions, as well as promoting female athletes and tackling the scourge of online abuse.
Pearson said even at the height of her success, she never allowed herself to look at social media because she knew there would still be haters out there.
“I was too scared just in case there were negative comments or messages,” she said.
“And that’s not OK because female athletes should be able to freely look at social media and feel confident in what they have to say.”