Canadian women inspiring Maritimers with medal wins in Tokyo
CENTRAL ONSLOW, N.S. -- For Olympic style weightlifter Amanda Thompson, watching a Canadian woman win gold in the sport in Tokyo early Tuesday morning, was emotional.
"I think it's huge for our sport, I think it's hopefully going to inspire a lot of young girls to get involved not even with our sport, but sport in general," says Thompson.
The 31-year-old started weightlifting seven years ago, a late newcomer to the sport, exactly like gold medal winner Maude Charron.
"I, too, was exposed to the sport through cross fit," says Thompson, "and then just started to fall in love with the sport itself and definitely haven't looked back!"
Now Thompson mentors others female weightlifters at her facility, The Hubtown Weightlifting Club in Central Onslow, N.S. She's also active in introducing the sport to others as part of the Nova Scotia Weightlifting Association and is part of a provincial taskforce to create greater gender equity in all levels of sport.
"Seeing someone to look up to, makes such a massive difference for young girls," says Janice Cougle, Participation Lead for Sport Nova Scotia.
A national study done last year found one in three Canadian girls drop out of sport by their late teens.
For Sport Nova Scotia, watching Canadian women dominate in medal wins in Tokyo so far, is directly connected to getting girls into sport, and keeping them there.
"And it's about all sport really," she says, "it's about designing sport and helping run a sport, so you feel welcome you feel like you belong, and you feel like you're making a difference or it's important to you."
Cougle says that means having women at every level of a sport, from players and coaches to officials and administration.
"In Nova Scotia, our athlete numbers are about 48 per cent female," she says, "and those numbers decrease depending on the other levels that you get into. Our board member representation is about 37 per cent female, our officials representation is about 30 per cent female, and our coaching representation is about 26 per cent female."
Earlier this year, the organization organized a virtual female leadership in sport development series through the Sport Nova Scotia's Women and Girls Task Force in an effort to boost those figures.
"What's great I so far the medal winners come from a variety of sports that require different bodies," says Charlene Weaving, the director of human kinetics at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.
Weaving says that's important, because it shows young athletes of any gender the diversity that can exist in athletics.
The next step, she says, is removing any barriers to participation, something that has been challenging during the pandemic.
"There's been research documenting that the pandemic has decreased girls' participation in sport," says Weaving, "so I think everybody needs … to try to create opportunities where they are possible."
"There are some games, some sports that require little equipment, like soccer for example," she adds, "and it's just ensuring that there are programs available for girls who wish to participate and trying to encourage those who haven't already participated…to try it out, and to try to use the success of the Olympics to propel that interest."
Women training at the Hubtown Weightlifting Club, hope females explore the possibilities of their sport, now that it's been in the spotlight.
"I don't think enough women know this sport exists and that would be really cool to change," says Thea Wall. "Because I know that once they get into it, they're like, 'why didn't I find this sport when I was eighteen?'"
Weightlifter Angelina McMullin agrees.
"Seeing a female Olympian in weightlifting, I hope that inspires them as well," she says. "As somebody who was a competitive baton twirler my whole life, and then I got into this sport three years ago, it's quite inspiring to see a woman achieve that gold medal at the Olympics."
That inspiration is something they hope doesn't end, when the Games do.