What Is The History Of Women’s Sports In Australia?
Women’s participation in professional sports goes back to the colonial days, with several sports being integrated into the physical education curricula of girls’ schools in the late 1800s. The first sporting clubs for women were formed in the 1900s.
And yet, until recently, women’s sports in Australia have hardly gotten the recognition they deserve. As late as 2008, women’s sports comprised just 9% of all television sports reporting in the country. There’s a long way to go before we have equality of coverage.
However, a recent wave of achievements by female Australian athletes has sparked the fires of interest in our Aussie sportswomen. On June 24, 2019, Australian audiences were treated to a huge array of achievements by outstanding Australian female athletes, all spread out over a single day, with Ashleigh Barty nabbing the world No. 1 title in tennis, golfer Hannah Green taking home the Women’s PGA Championship trophy, and the Australian women’s rowing team won the gold at the Rowing World Cup.
This sudden wave of achievements can only mean great things for women’s sports in Australia, but we need to keep the ball rolling if we want our female athletes to consistently get the recognition they deserve.
The 5 Most Famous Australian Female Athletes Today
Let’s take a look at the most famous Australian women in sports and highlight their achievements.
5. Michelle Jenneke
Sydney-born hurdler Michelle Jenneke is perhaps most famous for her sexy, dance-like warmup routine, which was captured on video at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona.
While Michelle is certainly one of the hottest female athletes to come out of Australia in the past couple of years, she’s more than just a pretty face! She took home the silver medal at the 100-metre hurdles in the 2010 Youth Olympics, made it all the way to the 2016 Rio Olympics, and even became the second-fastest Australian woman ever in the 100-metre hurdle.
And of course, at the Barcelona championships where she first achieved international fame, she took home first place as well.
4. Tatiana Grigorieva
Though she was born in Leningrad in the Soviet Union, pole vaulter Tatiana Grigorieva’s professional career started in Australia after she moved here in 1997. Just two years later in 1999, Tatiana nabbed a bronze at the World Championships. And then in 2000, she got her big break representing Australia in the Sydney Olympics, bagging a silver medal.
At the 2001 World Championships, Tatiana landed in fourth place, and nearly set a women’s world record, clearing the bar at 4.56 meters. In 2002, she earned a gold medal in her very first Commonwealth Games. Tatiana retired in 2007 with a chest full of medals from various championships, persevering despite numerous injuries.
3. Cathy Freeman
Cathy Freeman is regarded as one of the greatest female sprinters in world history, and she’s certainly got the accolades to show for it.
The Queensland-born runner has been hailed as the sixth-fastest woman of all time with a time of 48.63 seconds in the 400-metre dash, a record that she set in a silver medal-winning performance at the 1996 Olympics. In 1990, she became the first Aboriginal Australian to win a gold at the Commonwealth Games, and won the 400-metre sprint at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 1997.
In 2000, Cathy took home the Olympic gold medal for the women’s 400-metre sprint and even had the honour of carrying the Olympic Torch. She retired in 2003.
2. Ashleigh Barty
On June 23, 2019, Ashleigh Barty defeated Julia Görges at the Birmingham Classic in England, making her the first Australian woman to become world No. 1 in tennis since Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who landed the title in 1976. Today, she’s the highest paid tennis player in Australia.
Born in Ipswich, Queensland, Ashleigh is a tennis prodigy who’s been playing since she was four years old. She has indigenous Ngarigo heritage through her paternal great-grandmother, and Tennis Australia selected her as their indigenous ambassador in 2018, making her an inspirational figure for indigenous sportswomen all over the country.
1. Margaret Court
Margaret Court is one of the greatest tennis players of all time, both male and female. Born in Albury, New South Wales, Margaret started playing tennis at the age of eight, and won the Australian Championships for the first time at 18 in 1960. Her career was highlighted by a series of firsts for Australian women in tennis – she was the first female Australian to win the French Open and US Open in 1962, and in 1963 became the first Australian woman to take home the Wimbledon title.
Her astonishing record of 64 Grand Slam titles is unmatched in both men’s and women’s tennis, and throughout her career, she has won every possible title in each of the four Grand Slam events (the so-called ‘Grand Slam Boxed Set’). She was awarded this accolade twice – the only person in history to do so.
Though her career ended over forty years ago, her legacy continues as one of the greatest Australian female athletes in history.
The Future Of Women’s Sports
The world is finally opening its eyes to the showcase of skill in women’s sports, and it won’t be long before we find these athletic Australian icons standing tall alongside their male counterparts!