22 FEB 2018

Winter Olympics

Kent Messenger Column - 22-02-18

The Winter Olympics are unique, enthralling and too infrequent in my view. I'm sure the Grants are not the only family who become expert skating judges and master curling tacticians for the duration, only to put the closet score cards back in a virtual locker for another four years.

Slopestyle skiers racing backwards down a mountain; skeleton sliders hurtling along a half-tube ice track at lightening speeds; as well as being fabulous on-screen exhilaration the achievements of these athletes from across the globe are also a great force for inspiration and social strengthening.

From a GB standpoint the 2018 games are especially marked by our female athletes. Maidstone Grammar School for Girls' own Lizzy Yarnold showed huge skill and composure to defend her skeleton crown. I was fortunate enough to be in Sochi in 2014 when Lizzy won her first gold, and I saw then such a wonderful role model for young women. She has enormous determination, unassailable enthusiasm and this time around she has also shown how a champion can dig deep to perform under physical and mental adversity.

Alongside Lizzy's amazing effort, 75% of Team GB's medals in the first week were won by women and a raft of other female competitors also put in inspirational performances. The excellent Girls4Gold campaign can take credit for some of this success and I am proud to have championed the scheme during my time as Minister for Sport for two years under David Cameron. Female pundits and presenters too have been front and centre of the BBC's coverage of the games, which is hugely pleasing.

Pyeongchang further compounds the evidence that male and female sport should enjoy equivalent exposure, profile and funding and so let this be another wake-up call for sponsors everywhere that opportunities abound: In the words of the late Anita Roddick; be daring, be first and be different!

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