One for the ladies - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Maybe it’s having a daughter that’s made me highly attuned to the world of women’s athletics, but it really does seem like Canada is in the midst of a golden era of female athletic competition.
Then again, I know Jess and I have been long-time supporters of Canadian women in sport. As I wrote in a previous column, we always circle the days the Canadian national women’s soccer team plays its annual exhibition game in Ontario on our calendar, and we do the same for their televised games. That team won Olympic gold last year, the culmination of years of improvement against powerhouses like the U.S., Brazil, Germany and Sweden, and now there are plans in the works for a Canadian professional women’s soccer league.
At those Olympics, of course, a running narrative was that it was only our women who were winning medals. A few men snuck in some wins later on, but really it was the Canadian women who took centre podium.
With all this success, it was disheartening to read The Toronto Star’s Rosie Dimanno make the case that the time for women’s hockey in the Olympics has come and gone.
Dimanno is a long-time Star columnist and knows sports well. Furthermore, she’s always been a champion for women’s sports and acknowledged the controversy her opinion was bound to stir even as she was making it. Her point in this column is, essentially, that the world has not caught up to Canada and the U.S. in regards to women’s hockey and the Olympics is no place for a tournament for two.
Even if there’s truth to that, I find it tough to agree with her. Jess and I have already talked about taking Tallulah to see the women’s soccer team when it’s safe to do so. We did the same for our niece when the team played Mexico in Toronto in 2019 (a 3-0 win with goals by Jessie Fleming, Christine Sinclair and Adriana Leon). It was great to see a stadium full of young girls and women (and lots of men) witness world-class female athletes playing a sport at the very highest level.
In the weeks that followed the team’s gold medal win last year, many reflected on how far the women’s game has come in Canada; that young players like Fleming, Julia Grosso, Jordyn Huitema and others grew up watching trailblazers like Sinclair, Diana Matheson and Karina LeBlanc, gaining inspiration.
The many think pieces written pointed to a direct cause and effect between those who grew the game here in the 1990s and 2000s and last summer’s success in Tokyo, Japan.
Now, as we watch the Olympics at home, my daughter dances and spins along with the figure skaters and gets all wound up by speed skating, running from one side of the room to another over and over again. She seems to like skiing too, though she hasn’t quite figured out how to play along with that one just yet.
A quote traced back to Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, is “you can’t be what you can’t see”, which has since been tied to several initiatives to empower women in everything from business to sports to politics.
Tallulah can’t be what she can’t see and if she can’t see Canadian women playing hockey at the highest level possible, it’s unlikely she’ll draw inspiration from that world, because she won’t see herself reflected in it.
What we have now is something that so many women in sport have worked so very hard to accomplish in recent decades. Now is the time to shine the light brighter than ever, not turn it off because others haven’t kept up.