Celebrating Women in Deaf Sport

The Twittersphere is a crowded place today with every opportunity to tweet the celebration of International Women’s Day.

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Here in the UK, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation has launched its “Say Yes to Success” campaign to drive more commercial and media investment and attention to women’s sport. They plan to achieve this through investment and coverage of as many high quality events and competitions as possible.

According to WSFF, women’s sport only receives 0.4% of the total commercial investment in sport and only gets 7% of sports coverage by the media.

Today I am celebrating women in Deaf sport. I want to do this because I am concerned about the lack of deaf women taking up strategic roles in sport. UK Deaf Sport is currently recruiting for new Board members and we are very impressed with the high calibre of applications that we have attracted and we hope to be making some announcements later in the year. However, we need more women to apply for a place to help us go forwards.

Personally I don’t think we are communicating publicly how important women are to UKDS, perhaps people think we already have this sorted ? Maybe there is a lack of inspiration ? or there is a resignation that it remains a male dominated institution and it will be difficult to make an impact?

UK Deaf Sport has, up until now, always had women on its board of trustees, but both remaining women have tendered their resignations this year and we will not have replacements on the board at our AGM on 26th March.

I cannot stress how important it is that we have women represented at board level. There is so much that needs to be done and we need inspirational leaders to come and help us achieve our ambitions.

Did you know that at the first Deaflympics in Paris, 1924, there was only one woman competing. The pioneer of women was Hendrika Nicoline Van der Heyden (NED) who competed alone in the 100m backstroke swimming. According to Same Spirit Different Team  “Her event is probably, the first and only ‘walkover’ in the history of the Deaflympics.”

IMG_0533In the 2013 Summer Deaflympics, the majority of medal winners in the GB team were women. Athletic’s Melanie Hewitt, Lauren Peffers and the GB Womens Football team. The team was inspired by a charismatic Chef de Mission Fiona Brookes who was at the forefront from the moment she took on the role.

The CISS (Committee International Sports des Sourds) was the first international sports organisation to appoint a women, Maria de Bendeguz (VEN)  onto its Executive Committee in Koln 1981.

Donalda Ammons followed next as CISS Secretary General in 1997 and then succeeded John Lovett as President in 2005 and served until 2009 as she celebrated what was the most successful Deaflympic Games in terms of commercial and media coverage to date when the City of Taipei invested $200m of which $4.34m came from commercial sponsors and vastly increased media coverage which saw attendances rise from 12,00 in Melbourne 2005 to 278,884 in Taipei.

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Emile Sheng, CEO of the Taipei DOC said that the real ‘gold’ in staging the Deaflympics was not in the number of medals generated by the national Chinese Taipei team or the financial profit generated but by the raising of Taiwanese international profile, initiating a regeneration of Taipei City and, for the countries leading businesses, showcasing their products and services. Tony Phoo, an economist with Standard Chartered bank Taiwan PLC, observed:

Taiwan has long been seen primarily as a supplier of electronics components. This will change after the nations socio-economic development is displayed for all to see. (Brisebois 2009, p60 Same Spirit Different Team 2014)

The UK Deaf Table Tennis Association, this week has appointed Sereena Gilmour as its Chairperson. She is the mother of Deaflympian Nick Gilmour and the wife of the late John Gilmour who the UKDTTA owe a great debt to for his dedication and hard work.

IMG_1138Swimmer Danielle Joyce is currently enjoying sporting success breaking 3 world records at the EFDS National Juniors last week and destined to go further.

Like the WSFF, we need more media coverage of the Deaflympics. Same Spirit Different Team explains in detail how in 2001 the IOC contributed US$9m for the promotion of the 2008  Paralympics and US$14m for the 2010 and 2012 events but only 150,000 swiss francs for the Deaflympics to cover 2005-2009. The book suggests a plan of action.

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