Canadian women have been outpacing the men when it comes to podium finishes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, several days into the international event.
As of Wednesday, a total of nine medals had been earned for Canada in female sports, four of which were in swimming events.
“I find it super inspiring,” said competitive Lethbridge swimmer Lola O’Brien.
“Motivating, definitely, because that whole year with COVID has been really hard on us as athletes,” teammate Amelie Gouttin said.
“Having them have podiums and medals is super motivating.”
O’Brien, 14, and Gouttin, 15, have been swimming with the Lethbridge Amateur Swim Club for nearly a decade. They said watching Canadian women succeed at such a high level gives them hope for their own careers.
“It makes me know that I could possibly be up there one day,” O’Brien said.
“It’s been my goal ever since I was little to swim at the Olympics one day.”
Susan Eymann, executive director of the Lethbridge Sport Council, said while it’s great to be able to watch the event from home, it likely won’t make a huge change in the sporting world.
“Just being an Olympic year and having it broadcast on TV alone does not increase participation,” Eymann said.
But, she said, involvement of local sport organizations and encouragement from parents has the potential to boost sports in the community.
She hopes more girls will continue with sport despite COVID-19 setbacks.
For 12-year-old Haylee Phypers, watching gymnastics is what got her into the sport.
“I started watching gymnastics and slowly fell in love with it, and it’s been my life ever since,” she said.
Ashley Steacy, a 2016 bronze medalist in women’s rugby, is excited to see a trend emerge in women’s podium success.
“In Rio, it was the same,” she said. “The first however-many medals were won by women, and the same is happening in Tokyo.”
“Everything that’s happening in women’s sport is so exciting.”
Steacy, who now works with Rugby Alberta, knows how impactful watching the Olympics can be.
“Hearing messages from parents of kids who watched our games — they were so excited to see strong female role models that their girls could emulate, and how excited their kids were about being able to watch us.”