Since their creation, the Olympics have been a sign of grit and determination. A show of sportsmanship unlike any other, the event unites the world, as nations worldwide tune in to watch their greatest athletes compete.
Witnessing the very best from every sport, viewers see the epitome of their years of training. The great victories, heartbreaking defeats, and passion poured into each exploit exhibit just how much emotional investment goes into this competition.
For many Olympians, their spotlight on the world’s screen comes at a cost – time, energy, and relentless effort. While these factors vary from one athlete to another, they remain significant.
For example, USA gymnast Simone Biles, winning a total of 7 medals, said in an interview on the Ellen DeGeneres Show to have trained for 32 hours a week, with only one day off. Gymnast Gabby Douglas has said she teaches from 8 a.m. to noon, only stopping for lunch and continuing until dinner.
These great exploits of the human spirit serve as a drawing board to motivate individuals. Embodying the idea of working hard for one’s goals, athletes are a common source of inspiration in the media.
While those successes deserve recognition, many stories still go by, untold—tales of perseverance and accomplishment that have the power to resonate with the masses.
According to a study done by Sports Journal, female athletes still experience a disproportionate amount of media coverage compared to their male counterparts. Although increasing in exposure through the years, there is still an abundantly clear disparity of representation in prominent sports publications that results in a very noticeable lack for women athletes.
Why is that?
The Lack of Female Athlete Representation in The Media
Despite recent improvements made to raise awareness of female athletes’ triumphs such as at the London Olympics, with an equal number of men and women competing, there is still a biased attitude toward women’s sports that contributes to their portrayal in the media.
The masculinization of a sport, such as American football or ice hockey, perpetuates a mindset, thus allowing underrepresentation to continue. Toppled with society’s alignment with traditional gender expectations, this creates a barrier that is hard to cross and still exists to this day.
Unfortunately, women who participate in those sports do not get the same coverage as those who participate in those deemed more feminine, such as ice skating or gymnastics, and often have their private lives questioned. While their personal life goes under scrutiny, the press pushes their achievement to the side, which as a result, devalues their exploits.
Gender is not a criterion for skill. Women possess the same abilities to excel in competitive sports as men, and it is time for them to break the glass ceiling holding them back.
How the Flame Bearers Podcast Solves the Problem
Fuelled by their mission to celebrate the Tokyo Games’ woman-identified Olympians and Paralympians, the Flame Bearers podcast takes a deep dive into what being a top woman athlete means in real life.
Founded by Jamie Mittleman, this podcast represents a COVID-era adaption of a dream idea that she pitched to the International Olympic Committee in hopes of acquiring a creative communications position onsite in Tokyo to support women's efforts in sports.
“My COVID adaptation was to pitch a podcast, called Flame Bearers, championing women Olympians and Paralympians who had either qualified for Tokyo or were still trying to qualify,” writes Jamie in her Tuck School of Business feature. “By illuminating these incredible women athletes who had overcome countless obstacles—civil war, unequal pay, racial inequity, amongst others—my goal was to help instill hope in a time of uncertainty and pain.”
A dream turned into reality; Mittleman’s fellow Harvard Kennedy School graduate students, Michelle Poulin and Maddie Ulanow, joined her to propel this endeavor. Together, and supported by Harvard Kennedy and Harvard Innovation Labs, they now provide a platform for women athletes to share their journey.
“We share their rarely heard stories and are a microphone for women who are true masters of resiliency,” states the Flame Bearers team on their website.
Providing an opportunity to gain insight into Olympians' and Paralympians' dreams, struggles, and motivational lessons about overcoming adversity, listeners can tune in and learn from the life-changing experiences of these exceptional women and their mentors.
Shaping a new future for the world of sports, one podcast at a time, tune in to the Flame Bearers’ next episode to hear about groundbreaking feats of success, and connect with them on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram.
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Currently working as a copywriter and in PR, Dannie Le provides articles, press releases for a plethora of clients from diverse industries. From Montreal, Canada, she is an avid learner and believes in the power of strategic partnerships. When she’s not writing, she enjoys a good coffee, traveling, and taking life head-on.