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6 May 2004, 01:41 pm
Women In Olympic Sailing
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Athens 2004

Whilst women have participated in the Olympic Sailing Competitions from the early days of the Olympics, it was not until the 1988 Olympic Games that a specific women's event was included on the sailing programme.
Since then, the number of women's events has quadrupled to four, and the number of athletes systematically increased. However, this increase in participation is not just down to additional events for women, but can also be attributed to the increased support available to women across all sports.

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Jenny ARMSTRONG and Belinda STOWELL (AUS) on the podium after winning gold in the Double-Handed Dinghy Women (470), alongside silver medallists JJ Isler and Pease Glaser (USA) and bronze medallist Ruslana TARAN and Olena PAKHOLCHYK (UKR) at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. © Mike Hewitt /Allsport

Since 1988 the participation of women has continued to go up. 1992 saw an increase in the overall number of events, going up from 8 to 10, with the additional two events given to a Women's Single-Handed Dinghy (Europe) and Women's Windsurfer (Lechner A-390). The total number of athletes increased to 443, with the three women's events accounting for 82 athletes.

Moving onto 1996, and the number of events remained the same, although a greater allocation of slots was given to the women's events, to bring the total number of female athletes up to 99 - 21% of the total number of 458 athletes in Savannah, USA.

Sydney 2000 saw the introduction of an eleventh event, the high-performance dinghy open (49er). However, this new event made little dent in the athlete quotas given to women. Whilst the overall athlete quota fell to 402, the women athlete quota was 94, given an overall female participation of 23%.

Number of Events Number of Women's Events Number of Men/Women Athletes Number of Women Athletes Percentage of Women Athletes
1988 Olympic Games 8 1 370 42 11%
1992 Olympic Games 10 3 443 82 18%
1996 Olympic Games 10 3 458 99 21%
2000 Olympic Games 11 3 402 94 23%
2004 Olympic Games 11 4 4001 1371
Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) (centre) wins Gold, Amelie LUX (GER) (left) Silver and Barbara KENDALL (NZL) (right) Bronze at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. © Mark Dadswell /Allsport
Moving across to the Windsurfer Women, one sailor stands out from the rest, New Zealand's Barbara KENDALL, who has achieved a quiver of medals, Gold in 1992, Silver in 1996 and Bronze in 2000. To perform at this elite level across three Olympiads is incredible, and she will be back on the startline at the 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition and has every chance of taking a medal. Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) has also put in a superb performance on the Mistral, taking the bronze medal in 1996 and the Gold in 2000.

Single-Handed Dinghy Women (Europe) Double-Handed Dinghy Women (470) Windsurfer Women (Lechner A-390 and Mistral One-Design)
1988 Olympic Games Gold - Lynne JEWELL/Allison JOLLY (USA) -
Silver - Birgitta BENGTSSON/Marit SODERSTROM (SWE) -
1992 Olympic Games Gold Linda ANDERSEN (NOR) Theresa ZABELL/Patricia GUERRA CABRERA (ESP) Barbara KENDALL (NZL)
Silver Natalia VIA DUFRESNE PERENA (ESP) Leslie EGNOT/Janet Shearer (NZL) Xiaodong ZHANG (CHN)
Bronze Julia TROTMAN (USA) Jennifer ISLER/Pamela HEALY (USA) Dorien de VRIES (NED)
1996 Olympic Games Gold Kristine ROUG (DEN) Theresa ZABELL/Begona VIA DUFRESNE (ESP) Lee LAI SHAN (HKG)
Silver Margriet MATTHYSSE (NED) Alicia KINOSHITA/Yumiko SHIGE (JPN) Barbara KENDALL (NZL)
Bronze Courtenay BECKER-DEY (USA) Ruslana TARAN/Olena PAKHOLCHIK (UKR) Alessandra SENSINI (ITA)
2000 Olympic Games Gold Shirley ROBERTSON (GBR) Belinda STOWELL/Jenny ARMSTRONG (AUS) Alessandra SENSINI (ITA)
Silver Margriet MATTHYSSE (NED) Jennifer Isler/Pease GLASER (USA) Amelie LUX (GER)
Bronze Serena AMATO (ARG) Ruslana TARAN/Olena PAKHOLCHIK (UKR) Barbara KENDALL (NZL)

Whilst women have always been eligible to sail in all events, they had seldom entered those where physical strength and stamina were at a premium.

The first woman to win a medal in sailing at the Olympic Games was Frances RIVETT-CARNAC (GBR) at the 1908 Olympics held in London (GBR). Frances was part of the Gold Medal winning crew of four sailing in the 7 Metre Class.

The next Olympic Games to see a woman win a medal were the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp (BEL) where Dorothy WRIGHT (GBR) was also part of the Gold Medal winning 7 Metre Class crew.

It was another 8 years during the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam (NED) for the next women medallist. This time the honours went to Virginie HERIOT (FRA) who took the Gold Medal as part of a crew of six in the 8 Metre Class.

The eight year cycle for women winning medals was repeated again as it was not until the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (GER) that another woman could take to the podium. Dagmar SALEN (SWE) was part of the Bronze Medal crew of 5 in the 6 Metre Class.

After the break in Olympic Games for World War II there were no women medallists until the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki (FIN). This time two women went home with medals Vibeker LUNDE (NOR) won the Silver Medal as part of the crew of 3 in the 5.5 Metre Class and Emelyn WHITON was one of 6 crew members who took the Gold Medal in the 6 Metre Class.
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