Heroines who project the right image

In The Mixed Zone’s third and final contribution to Women’s Sport Week, Laura Winter discusses the partnership between Women’s Sport Trust and photo agency Getty Images to produce guidelines for the type of images that should be produced of our sportswomen. Alongside, some of Britain’s top performers pick their biggest sporting moments of the year

Interviews compiled by Alys Bowen and Katie Smith


Can I say my own moment? It has to be winning gold in Rio … the whole game was a bit of a blur, but there was one point in the final where the Dutch hit the crossbar. We had been talking about this earlier in the day: it was the third time a big team had done this [hit the crossbar], and every time we had gone on to win the game. So that was probably the moment in the game where I thought, ‘Wow, we’re going to do this, we’re going to win’. Then Hollie [Webb] scoring the winner was just incredible, it still doesn’t feel real.


Is it too obvious to say GB Women’s Hockey? It was such an iconic moment. I’m friends with Alex Danson, so I’ve seen her hard work and the resulting devastation at not getting the results she wanted. I could only watch the first half as I was in my Rio prep so couldn’t stay up late, but my wife woke me up for the shoot-out! I’ve never screamed so much at the TV so late at night! I was so, so happy for Alex and the team. It helped me believe that if you stick to your plan and believe in the work you’ve done anything is possible. And that’s what I did when I went to Rio.


This year was ground-breaking in the field of ocean rowing. For the first time the race organisers agreed to have a prize for the female competitors. It’s been something I’ve been pushing for years and I cried when Atlantic Campaigns said they would do it. You can imagine my excitement when ‘Row Like a Girl’, a team of four women skippered by Lauren Morton, won that race. In fact, they came in second overall, an extraordinary achievement in a field full of male teams. No women’s team has done so well, and the girls are amazing role models. I hope they inspire many more women into the sport I love.


As a team we were doing morning stretching, could hear TV and ran across to see Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley win their Olympic silver medal. We were screaming the place down. It was special as we had tried to stay in own bubble and not get involved in any of the hype of the Olympics, so we felt like naughty school child. It was even more special because the rowers train at the same place as us at Bisham Abbey, so we knew a little bit more about it. For me, this moment screamed ‘true champion’.


I think it’s so exciting that we have Women’s Sport Week. It’s great that we can celebrate women in sport, and raise that profile of not just the athletes but the people behind the scenes, the coaches and group leaders. There were so many great moments from Rio, but the stand-out moment for me was the GB women’s hockey team. I kept bumping into them in the lift at the Athletes’ Village and they were lovely. So I had just a vested interest in seeing how they were doing. The fact they were undefeated after so many matches was really impressive. The final match was so exciting as they were the underdogs, and Hollie Webb’s penalty, when all that pressure was on, was incredible. The whole team reaction was so powerful, and that was so empowering.


For me, Susie Rodgers winning her gold medal in the 50-metres butterfly at the Paralympics was a highlight of the year. Her reaction was amazing and so emotive. It was her hand that covered her face when she realised she had won that was so powerful – she didn’t know how well she had done. We were in our apartment screaming at the TV. Women in general in Rio did a fantastic job and this was definitely a stand-out moment.


My favourite moment was watching the 4×100 metres relay in Rio. I set my alarm so early to get up and watch it live and I remember screaming at the TV. I was snapchatting all my friends as it was just so impressive and I was so emotional. I also feel that the hockey was the pinnacle of the Olympics and women’s sport in general. Their passion was amazing – they wanted it so badly. That was translated into the reaction they received at home.


My favourite sporting moment of the year was when Serena Williams claimed her 22nd Grand Slam title when she won the Wimbledon singles. For me, she epitomises the female sports hero – she is strong and different enough to give people confidence in their differences. When she won to equal the record, I felt emotional and stoked for her. It gave me the hope that your body can do whatever you ask of it as long as you are kind to it.


My favourite sporting moment of 2016 was seeing my friend Petra Klingler win the Bouldering World Championships in Paris a few weeks back. I was out of action due to injury and I got experience being a spectator. It was exhilarating. Watching the climbers give everything they could, and seeing the raw emotion on their faces, is something I have rarely witnessed. Petra climbed flawlessly, she fought hard and wore a beaming smile the entire time. Seeing her preform like that on that stage in front of 9,000 people was incredibly inspiring and a moment I won’t forget.

Women’s Sport Week never fails to inspire. You find yourself surrounded by like-minded, passionate and tenacious men and women determined to boost the coverage of the nation’s sportswomen. The future looks bright and women’s sport is in safe hands. It is an unstoppable and forceful movement which will not be silenced.

This year, Getty Images showed themselves to be the leaders in their field in more ways than one. As the world’s largest photo agency, they have taken responsibility and joined Women’s Sport Trust to produce guidelines for the type of images we should be producing of our sportswomen. What we consume visually plays an enormous part in our expectations of what a woman should look like.

Images of sportswomen are often sexualised, focusing on looks instead of skills or performance. Now, Getty Images and the Women’s Sports Trust are celebrating the diversity of our female athletes with honest and very real portrayals. These images are going to be available for free for schools so the next generation of Helen Glovers, Laura Kennys, Kadeena Coxes and Sarah Hunters will not only be inspired, but realise they have an identity and that they belong, too.

Rebecca Swift of Getty explained why they had become involved. “We’ve decided as an organisation to become more courageous and we felt like we had to make this bold move. As the biggest organisation out there we have quite a lot of power and therefore we are able to give other organisations the courage to do the same. It was time to lead by example. Other voices were not big or loud enough.”

She also laid out the reasons why photographing women in sport is so important. She said: “We have a motto at Getty, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. That’s why partnering up with the Women’s Sport Trust is so important. The key is to be representing a range of sportswomen and at the moment the photographic industry is missing a large part of that range.”

Rebecca believes the initiative will make a big impact on female sports coverage, and “hopefully for the better”. She went on: “I think it will be a two-part process. Firstly, we [Getty] will need to be at the events in order to take the photos, but secondly, and crucially, it will be the distribution by journalists and the media that can really implement the change. This is why the partnership between Getty and the Women’s Sport Trust, alongside The Mixed Zone, is so important. To make the step forward that we need, we must take the photos, while knowing that they are being distributed far and wide and alongside their male counterparts.”

Hurrah for that. There is much to cheer and much to be excited about in women’s sport. We saw that this summer. Given the chance to tune in to all things women’s sport at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio, our nation did it in abundance. They lapped up the quality, the drama and the excitement. Nine million watched the thrilling women’s hockey final, where Kate Richardson-Walsh and her gang, including the indomitable Maddie Hinch, beat the Dutch on penalties to win Olympic gold.

Eleven million watched Laura Trott (now Kenny) win her fourth gold medal in the Velodrome to become the most successful British female Olympian of all time. And just this week, one of the most-read stories on the BBC website was an interview with Annemiek van Vleuten, who not only survived a horror crash which robbed her of a chance to win gold in the road race, she is also back on her bike and winning races.

It is hard to pick my best women’s sport moment of the year – there was such a wealth of history-making, ground-breaking performances. Trott winning that fourth gold medal in peerless fashion in the omnium is up there, as is Katherine Grainger’s silver medal against all odds in the women’s double sculls with Vicky Thornley. Vicky Holland winning bronze in the triathlon, in an all-or-nothing battle with team-mate, housemate and best friend Non Stanford was also thrilling.

But the stand-out moment for me has to be that hockey final. Firstly, I love penalties. As cruel as they are, nothing beats the drama, the agony and the ecstasy of a penalty shoot-out. But, more importantly, as the GB squad belted out the National Anthem in a prime-time Friday night slot on BBC One, I imagined hundreds of girls around the country turning to their parents and saying: “I want to be like Maddie Hinch, I want to be the next Kate Richardson-Walsh.” That is progress. The implications of that one moment are far-reaching and will be felt for years to come.

But there is also so much more to do and we can all make a difference. Keep watching women’s sport. Watch more of it. Watch rugby, cricket, netball, football and hockey. Talk about it with your friends. Read about it. Shout about it on social media. Support your local grassroots clubs. Challenge sexist comments. We all have a part to play.


Laura Winter is a sports journalist, presenter and event host. She worked in sports communications for the International Rowing Federation for two years, before working and training as a journalist in Gloucestershire, covering a variety of sports including rugby, boxing, football, and triathlon. She then turned freelance at the end of 2014 and is part of the team who founded Voxwomen, a women’s cycling show that seeks to give the female elite peloton the coverage they deserve. Laura’s latest articles.

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