She shoots, she scores

Girls just to want score Deb Williams looks at the recent controversy over the legitimacy of women’s hockey at the Winter Olympic Games. Here’s Deb’s report:

Women’s aspirations and goals, both in amateur and professional sports, have always been influenced and determined by men.
This issue was brought to the forefront ahead of the 2010 Winter Games, when the International Olympic Committee denied women ski jumpers the chance to compete in Vancouver.
"Women’s ski jumping.” The IOC said, “does not reach the necessary technical criteria and as such does not yet warrant a place alongside other Olympic events." The decision has remained unchanged, even after the women filed grievances with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The Supreme Court of Canada heard and dismissed their case.
So even though we won the right to vote early in the 19th century, today it seems women are sometimes still not men’s equals.
Canadian mother and avid sports fan Betty Couture agrees: “In some countries women are still treated like second-class citizens,” she said when we asked her thoughts on the latest women’s ice hockey controversy.
The debate broke out soon after the Olympic cauldron was lit. In their first game at the Vancouver Games, the more-experienced Canadian women’s team demolished Slovakia’s females by an embarrassing score of 18-0. Then the U.S. women’s team clobbered China 12-1. Since then, the scores in games involving the two powerhouse North American teams have been equally lopsided.
There are teams from 12 nations at the Vancouver Games, but invariably women’s international ice hockey tournaments come down to gold-medal games between the U.S. and Canada.
So now, critics of the women’s game are erupting once again into a familiar chorus. Women’s hockey, said some journalists, is “not ready for the Olympics”, and two strong teams and 10 weaker teams do not make an Olympic competition.
Women’s hockey made its Olympic debut at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan with just six teams. With twice as many teams now competing, the sport is blooming. “Ice hockey,” reports Wikipedia citing an Industry Canada study, “is one of the fastest growing women’s sports in the world, with the number of participants increasing 350 percent (our emphasis) in the last 10 years.” Despite being drubbed by the Canadians, Slovakia made its Olympic debut in Vancouver – so clearly women there are getting in to the sport, as they are in many parts of the world. While the Slovaks won’t earn a medal, they came to Vancouver to compete – and isn’t that the Olympic ideal?
Betty Couture loves hockey – of any gender. She is the mother of two daughters. Her eldest daughter, now a medical student, played competitive girl’s hockey and went to university on a sports scholarship. Betty has strong feelings about providing equal opportunities to girls for fitness and sport.
“This is just growing pains for the competition and the sport,” she says. “They are judging the women too harshly. If the sport is an Olympic competition, there will more opportunity for girls in many countries, where girls want to play hockey. This sport is accessible in many places. All you need is ice, equipment, and to want to learn.”
There is one thing that seems evident to me as an avid female sports enthusiast. Watching Canada‘s women’s ice hockey team is not about scoring goals, it’s about proving a point. This is our global stage too, and we are going to be here for a long time.
CBC News reported that ice hockey is the fastest-growing female sport in Canada. It’s led to a struggle for sufficient ice time for these budding female athletes. So why, in a country of plenty, do we still need to fight pointless battles between the sexes.
Like so many before them, Hayley Wickenheiser, Kacey Bellamy and other women hockey stars prove they earned the right to play sports every time they skate onto the ice. They earned the right to represent their country – just like the men.
Deb WilliamsI was born and grew up in India, and have adopted Canada as my home. Throughout my education, the inclusive accomplishments of Mahatma Gandhi and Mallika Sarabhai were ingrained in me — not only for our country, but for women. We were given a voice and an opportunity to aspire to be anything.
I may never be a famous athlete, but I will always be an avid snowboarder and tennis player. I will always feel a surge of excitement when I look outside my window and see a fresh blanket of snow or a beautiful sunny Saturday morning. It will always mean only one thing: it’s a great day for sports.
I believe that regardless of sex or stature every human should have the opportunity to reach for greatness.  A behemoth event such as the Olympics should not be about male or female athletes, but about justice, equality, and excellence.