With UEFA Women’s Euro 2013 in full swing, Marion Bartoli’s Wimbledon triumph still fresh in our minds and the first anniversary of what was widely heralded “The Women’s Olympics” just days away, we couldn’t think of a better time to reflect upon, and celebrate, the achievements of some of the world’s most pioneering women in sport – both inside and outside of the stadium.
London 2012 was a momentous event in the history of women’s sport, for the boundaries, as well as the records, it broke: “ was the first Olympics in which women could compete in every discipline, the first with a female representative from every country and the first with a [BBC] female director of sport,” says Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive of Women’s Sport And Fitness Foundation (WSFF).
But what will resonate most for future generations, is the women behind those landmark achievements – a new wave of female role models who are challenging the very nature of female celebrity.
Tibballs stresses the importance of such figureheads: “Girls need to see more female athletes, to see that women’s sport isn’t just ‘normal’ it is also aspirational and exciting.”
An increase in women's sport media coverage is a crucial part of this. There is a long way to go but there are signs of improvement - for the first time in the competition's history, each and every football game in this month's women's Euros will be aired by the BBC.
But it isn’t just the women who have struck Olympic gold or won championship titles, who are paving the way for a new generation of healthy, active women and female sports stars. There are the courageous women who have overcome substantial obstacles, in order to inspire and motivate their compatriots; the women behind-the-scenes who have gained positions of power in a male dominated world to campaign tirelessly for gender equality in sport; the women who are fighting to put female sport on the map, with improved media coverage of its events.
Below are eight such women – those whose passion and determination is changing the shape of women’s sport and how it is perceived.