In aid of International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March the Loughborough Women’s Network put together a jam packed week of amazing events celebrating and inspiring women.
On Wednesday 11th March the LWN hosted an engaging evening in celebration of inspirational women in sport. The panel of special guest speakers consisted of current Loughborough students: European Youth Championships Bronze Medallist for Weightlifting Mercy Brown, Number One Scottish High Jumper as well as Chair of the LWN Ella Gibbons and Loughborough alumna Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist for Hockey, Giselle Ansley. The evening was structured in a pseudo talk show fashion with a member of the LWN firing questions at the guests and then taking questions from the floor. The evening provided a truly insightful view into the lives of women in sport from various points of view and no topic was left untouched- from missing nights out, to the pressure of making weight, to the portrayal of female sport in the media.
Something that really struck a chord was the emphasis that was placed on education as well as sport throughout the evening. Giselle Ansley explained how she had to essentially teach herself in her final year due to her training commitments in London. Over the course of her four-year degree she managed to find the balance between training and studying and stressed the importance of both education and sport. It really is great to see such promising athletes who are not only dedicated to their sport but also education.
The pinnacle point of the evening was when questions were taken from the audience. When asked a question concerning eating disorders, Ella Gibson responded saying that it is prevalent in aesthetic sports – such as her own, high jumping, where you are “essentially in front of hundreds of people in your underwear”. Ella also shed light on the pressure from coaches and the media for female athletes to look in top form; this was combatted by Ella revealing that surrounding yourself with a good support system and not being too strict on yourself should keep you on the right track.
As a female athlete in a male dominated sport the most frequently asked question Weightlifter Mercy Brown is asked is what does she bench, just to clarify Mercy wittily replies she does not bench, it’s not a part of her training programme. During her interview Mercy revealed that she wouldn’t want people to think that she looks like a weightlifter, which raises the matter of self-image particularly in female sport. Mercy also had some wise words of wisdom when asked what she would say to people who might feel insecure about going into Powerbase, to which she replied with tact in three words. “Get over it”.
Views about Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ national campaign were also expressed. There was a collective sense that the athletes on stage wanted to inform other women who might be apprehensive to get into sport to enjoy the feeling that gives, regardless of the level you are playing at. It was also felt that the campaign addresses the issues women may have with sport but don’t recognise. An important sentiment shared was that women should love themselves no matter what.
The celebration of women in sport doesn’t end with this week and if you would like to be a part of something special, 200 Loughborough ladies are taking on Nike Women’s 10K Race Series this summer 21/06/2015 in London. For more information, follow #werunlondon and #CrewLboro on Facebook.
The evening truly provided a unique insight into the lives of elite female athletes behind the scenes. The questions that remains is; what is next in store for the LWN and how will they top such an amazing and inspiring week?
Photography by Jazz Jefferies, Till Sieberth and Katie Wilson