RIO DE JANEIRO – For Canadian women’s rugby sevens captain Jen Kish, a single tweet painted a broad picture of what her team’s bronze medal at the Olympics could mean to girls back home.
A father wrote Kish that his daughter picked her out on the screen during Monday’s victory over Britain and said: “Daddy, I want to be strong like her.”
“It’s a true honour,” Kish said Tuesday. “To be a role model and have a six-year-old point at the TV and say that they want to be like you, it inspires me to keep going. I know I’m doing something right in my sport.
“All you need is one role model to really push you to drive for your dream. I wish that little girl all the best in her dreams and I hope she achieves them.”
Canada’s women have been achieving a lot of dreams so far in Rio de Janeiro, with all five of the country’s medals coming from female athletes.
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“Girl power, right?” said Kish, a 28-year-old from Edmonton. “I think we as females have something to prove. We can compete in a male-dominate world in sport. Someone once told me that female sports don’t sell and just I don’t believe that.
“Women do deliver, and we are.”
Apart from the rugby, Canadian women have won three medals in the pool and another on the diving board in Brazil. Penny Oleksiak grabbed silver in the 100-metre butterfly on Sunday after the 16-year-old from Toronto also anchored Saturday’s final leg of a bronze-medal performance in the 4×100-metre freestyle.
Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., then took bronze in the 100-metre backstroke on Monday, a few hours after that third-place finish in rugby sevens.
And on Tuesday, divers Roseline Filion of Laval, Que., and Montreal’s Meaghan Benfeito added to the medal haul with another bronze in the 10-metre synchronized event.
“I would like to inspire young girls to follow their dreams and dream big,” said the 20-year-old Masse. “It just shows them that anything can happen and never doubt yourself. Just set goals and keep working hard and have fun.”
Apart from rugby, the women’s basketball and soccer teams have also impressed, with the latter stunning Germany on Tuesday to top its group with a perfect 3-0 record.
Women make up roughly 60 per cent of Canada’s Olympic team, outnumbering their male counterparts 187 to 117, although 42 of those women play on team sports compared to 28 for the men.
Canada had 157 women and 122 men at the London Games four years ago, while the ratio was 188-146 the other way in 2008 in Beijing.
The schedule at the start of the Olympics has something to do with the uneven medal haul thus far, while some performances standing out from the men that haven’t resulted in any hardware, including an upset of the powerhouse U.S. in volleyball.
“From my perspective, I take medals any way I can get them,” said Canadian chef de mission Curt Harnett. “Across the board I’m seeing success from all our athletes.”
Own The Podium CEO Anne Merklinger, head of the government-backed program tasked with doling out federal money to sport federations, said along with directing funds to competitors with medal potential, past female Olympic heroes have helped lay a solid groundwork.
“When you look at our tremendous success in previous Games – Jennifer Heil and Kaillie Humphries in winter, Silken Laumann and Christine Sinclair in summer – all those women have become terrific role models for Canada,” said Merklinger. “They inspire young girls to get involved in sport.”
Like with any team, Marre said there’s been some ribbing in the athletes’ village with Canada’s women leading the men 5-0 in the medal count.
“Maybe a little,” she said. “But I think they’re super talented and they’ll get (their medals).”View link »
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