Skateistan among winners at IOC Women and Sport Awards 2020

Ahead of International Women's Day, these six awards organised by the International Olympic Committee recognise extraordinary contributions to female participation in sport.

By Andrew Binner

With International Women’s Day just around the corner on Sunday 8 March, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has revealed the names of the six winners of the Women and Sport Awards 2020.

The winners were selected by the IOC Women in Sport Commission, who recognised their efforts in developing and encouraging women’s and girls’ participation in sport.

“Each project is a lifelong commitment to advancing gender equality on and off the field of play," IOC President Thomas Bach said as the winners were announced.

“We are celebrating their great contributions in a year in which the Olympic Games will be gender balanced for the first time, with equal numbers of male and female athletes competing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

The World award went to non-profit organisation Skateistan, which uses skateboarding and education to empower children, and especially young girls.

Skateistan programmes now reach over 2500 children aged five to seventeen years of age in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa.

“It was amazing when girls stepped on a skateboard because they didn’t ride bicycles, they didn’t play volleyball and they didn’t play football,” said Skateistan founder Oliver Percovich.

“They weren’t allowed to do those things because they were seen as activities for boys, and skateboarding was new so it didn’t have these societal rules that said that girls couldn’t do it.”

The winner for Africa was four-time Olympian in judo Salima Souakri.

The judoka was the first Algerian and Arab woman to participate in the sport at the Olympics, and has continued to fight for gender equality in her retirement from competition.

Souakri became the first Algerian woman to be named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and she is also a member of the International Judo Federation’s Gender Equity Committee, encouraging young girls to practise sport.

Algerian judo legend Salima Souakri fought in four Olympic Games. But her biggest fight so far has been against prejudice and misogyny.

“I once applied for a position at a judo union” recalls Salima. “The boss made a remark which is etched on my mind: ‘Did we run out of men, that we need to appoint a woman now?’”

“This prize is a prize for women and sport of which I am so very proud. As it came after a thirty-six-year athletic career, this prize came to crown this journey. So, I am very happy and especially very proud.”

The Asia award went to South Korean Olympic medallist, and former is a former international archery champion Kim Jin-Ho.

The university professor has successfully advocated for increased female representation within national governing bodies, as a former director of the Women’s Sport Association of Korea, and a member of the Women’s Sport Commission of the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC).

She also founded the Myeong-goong Council, which provides free archery lessons and scholarships to children, particularly girls.

“I’ve been practising archery since childhood. Archery had a huge influence on my personality growth, and I want to be a positive example to children and everyone. And as a woman, I want to lead, and teach” - Kim Jin-Ho.

Canadian Dr. Guylaine Demers won the Americas award

The professor and chair of women’s studies research at Laval University in Quebec is one of the country’s most prominent advocates for gender equality in sport.

In 2015, she co-founded the Conversations on Women in Sport conference – a symposium held in Quebec City dedicated to fostering solutions to improve the experiences of girls and women in the Canadian sports system.

She currently serves as President of Égale-Action (Quebec’s Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport), Co-Chair of Sport Canada’s working group on girls and women in sport, and Chair of the Federal Minister of Sport’s advisory group on girls and women in sport.

“For me, winning a Women’s Trophy from the International Olympic Committee for the Americas was really really big,” said Dr Demers.

“When you have two seconds you realize that you are one of only five women in the world to receive this trophy.”

Women and Sport Awards (c) International Olympic Committee

Else Trangbæk, who was the first women to represent Denmark in gymnastics, took home the Europe award.

After finishing her sporting career, the university professor became one of the most prominent and influential women in Danish sport. She ensured that resources were allocated to initiatives tackling gender issues, while underlining the importance of women in sport through countless books, articles and interviews in the Danish press.

“The fight for equality is about gender, it is about class, it is about ethnicity," Trangbaek said.

“In Denmark, we have had difficulties in making quotas, as they have done in Norway and Sweden. As quotas are not made, I would suggest that instead, we would have what is referred to as election committees that nominate both men and women for election" - Else Trangbaek.

Australian Kitty Chiller won the Oceania award.

Chiller was among the first women to compete in modern pentathlon at the Olympic Games, before developing into a highly regarded international sports administrator.

In 2016, she became the first-ever female Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic team, and was appointed Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant services to Australian and international sport last year.

“Barriers are barriers if you let them be barriers to yourself,” Kitty said.

“I believe that all of us, no matter our gender, no matter where we are, should just try to be the best person that you can be, and achieve and maximise whatever opportunities you’ve been given.”

The winners will officially receive their awards at a ceremony later on this year.