International Women’s Day is Sunday 8 March 2020. IWD is celebrated and supported globally and has been in existence since 1911. The day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, globally. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
We thought we’d take the opportunity to highlight our sport of swimming; the changes, the participants and the pioneers and celebrate some of their amazing achievements. So, here’s our look at some notable moments in our sport's history:
1. Women’s Olympic Swimming
One year after the first IWD in 1911, women’s swimming became an Olympic sport in Stockholm. Swimming’s inclusion in the Olympic Games as a women’s event was 26 years ahead of Athletics, 40 years ahead of Equestrianism, 64 years ahead of rowing and 100 years ahead of Boxing (all of the sports listed started as men’s events between 1896 and 1904).
Stockholm 1912 hosted a total of nine medal events in swimming, seven for men, but only two for women; 100m freestyle and 4 x 100m freestyle relay. Despite this, Britain’s quartet of Belle Moore, Jennie Fletcher, Annie Spears and Irene Steer brought home GB’s only swimming gold medal of the Games. Jennie Fletcher also won a bronze in the 100m freestyle. It is worth noting that women’s swimming only achieved parity of Olympic events in Munich 1976.
2. Women’s Swimming Participation
Swimming is one of very few female dominated sports in the UK. The latest Sport England figures from Active Lives shows that in only three activities (out of 15 listed) do women outnumber men in terms of participation. Gymnastics, Equestrian and Swimming. Swimming/aquatics is the second most popular activity for women (11% taking part in last 28 days) behind running/athletics/multi-sport (14%), compared to men’s swimming/aquatics which is 3rd place with (8.9% taking part in last 28 days).
Our Marathon Swims event has female representation of 55% in each of its three events so far. The Marathon Swims 2020 event was 60% female.
3.Women Marathon Swimmers
Here we celebrate a few notable pioneers of Marathon Swimming:
Gertrude Caroline Ederle (USA) become the first ever woman to swim the English Channel in 1926, earning the nickname Queen of the Waves. This achievement was followed a year later by Mercedes Gleitze, the first British female to swim the channel.
Alison Streeter MBE (pictured) is by far the most accomplished Channel Swimmer ever. Alison holds the record for the most number of crossings 43 (9 crossings ahead of the men’s record). Part of her 43 crossings include a triple crossing (Alison still holds the women’s record of 34:40 from 1990), seven crossings in one year and Alison once held the women's record for a single crossing (8 hours 48 mins).
Keri-anne Payne and Cassie Patten led the medal charge in the first ever Olympic Marathon Swimming event in Beijing 2008, with a fantastic silver and bronze respectively. Keri-anne went on to compete in London 2012 (4th) and Rio 2016 Olympic Games (7th), before retiring from swimming and presenting the ITV game show The Wave.
In Marathon Swims, the former overall record holder and outright winner of both the 2017 and 2018 events was the amazing Hayley Moore.
The amazing Jame Asher (88) has competed in each of the last 3 Marathon Swims, even claiming a top 10 place. Jane is a World Champion age group swimmer.
So, thank you all for your amazing achievements, for being pioneers and ultimately for your inspiration to us all.
Photo credits: TimeOut, Wikipedia, ishof.org