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SALLY PEARSON: What’s it going to take to get women’s sport on the map?

Sally Pearson suffered a devastating injury which has forced her out of the Olympics (AFP/Olivier Morin).
Expert
29th October, 2014
79
1928 Reads

I might never have made it to the level I’ve achieved without the love and support of my mum. For many kids, sporting life of whatever variety you choose begins with your parents’ encouragement. It was the same for me.

I began gymnastics when I was four, and started doing Little Athletics on the Gold Coast when I was 11. My mum encouraged me to take up those sports, and signed me up to compete.

Eventually, you hit a point in your life where you have to make a choice. It becomes a matter of whether you enjoy it enough that you want to continue with it, and maybe even go all the way try to make a career of it.

I kept going, first and foremost, because I loved what I did. I was making also some really good friends out of athletics, which was another important factor. I was confident I was good enough to get to the Olympics, so I made that my goal.

Becoming a professional sportsperson in any discipline is not an easy thing to accomplish, and although we live in 2014, it’s still harder for women than it is for men.

My first pillar of support in all this was my mum, who worked two jobs so I could afford to travel to school carnivals and national championships. Like any great parent, she was supportive of me doing what I loved to do.

Then, when I was 17 years old, I was really lucky to have Adidas come on board as a supporter for me. It was my first sponsorship.

It wasn’t a lot of money but it was enough to fund my sporting trips to national championships and world juniors, and it meant mum didn’t have to work two jobs.

Sponsorships aren’t easy to get. I’ve never had to spend time knocking them back, that’s for sure. I have spent my fair share of time out there, knocking at doors, trying to raise some support for myself and others.

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While there’s more support for women in sport today in Australia than there has been in the past, this country is still very much dominated by the male side of sport.

There are some big questions that I think need to be asked. I don’t consider myself the person to answer these questions necessarily, but simply asking them, and having them talked about in the media, can be just as important.

Questions like; why is there so little interest in women’s sport in Australia? Why do we see it so very rarely advertised, or supported, or aired on TV, compared to what we see of men’s sport?

Even when female athletes are able to succeed, it is much more difficult to make a career of sport. Sponsorships are much harder to come by for female athletes, and we don’t earn as much as men can.

In Australia we see a lot of focus in the media on team sports, in particular men’s team sports. If you look at what footballers earn in Australia, it is a lot compared to other athletes. I definitely don’t earn as much as a man playing football.

And despite the numerous challenges we face, women have achieved a lot while wearing the green and gold over the years. In recent times we’re leading the men on the imaginary scoreboard for what we, as athletes, have achieved.

So why haven’t things changed?