Just A Number?
Age is just a number, right? If your answer is yes, then why do so many of us write off female sports persons simply because they are older than the rest of the field? Look at Kimiko Date-Krum, the Japanese tennis star, who has made a comeback to the sport at the age of forty-four, an age at which most players take part in the Senior Tour. Even now, she’s distinguishing herself really well. She’s still capable of giving her opponents a run for their money. And let’s not forget the peerless Serena Williams, who came back from a life-threatening illness and is still dominating women’s tennis. And she’s in her early thirties!
Who said women cannot be sportsperson if they cross a certain age or become mothers? This belief is entirely untrue and the lady who disproved this so emphatically was not born in the last twenty-five years when stereotyped beliefs about women have undergone a drastic change.
The lady I’m talking about is Fanny Blankers-Koen. Many may not have heard of her, but she was instrumental in putting women’s athletics on the map and she, at the age of thirty and as a mother of two, won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympic Games. And in 1999, she was voted the Female Athlete of The Century by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). Fanny did not have it easy. She came into prominence at a time when most of the world’s nations were at war with each other, robbing her of some of her best years as an international competitor. By the time World War II came to an end, she was married and had given birth to a son. At this point, most of the world had written her off. All except herself and her husband. By 1947, she was breaking world records again and had earned a spot in the Dutch Olympic Track & Field team. By this time, her second child was born as well. This did not stop her from training.
When the Olympics rolled around, she was primed and ready, grabbing gold in the 100m and 200m sprints and 80m hurdles and helping the Dutch relay team to win gold in the 4*100 m relay. (This performance earned her the nickname “The Flying Housewife.”) Her victories came at a time when women’s athletics was not taken seriously. And more recently, I think we’ll all remember Kim Clijsters, who made a successful comeback to professional tennis after the birth of her daughter to win a couple more Grand Slam titles.
The fact that age is just a number applies not just to sports, but all other fields as well. We women are capable of shining at any age. If we wish to change our career paths at the age of forty, then so be it. Never again should we think “Oh but I’m too old!” We’re never too old and it’s never too late to follow our dreams and do what we want. If tomorrow a mother of two in her thirties comes up to you and says she’s training to take part in the Olympics or World Championships do not laugh and belittle her. Instead, pat her on the back and salute her for having the courage to follow her dreams.