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Profiles in Courage: Women in the Olympic Games

London 2012 Olympic Games female athletes

While the true origin of the Olympic Games is subject to debate, it is widely accepted they began around 776 B.C. and featured running events, a pentathlon, boxing, wrestling, pankration, and equestrian events. Only men were allowed to participate, and because they were naked for most of the events, only married women were allowed to attend the games.

It wasn’t until the summer Olympics in Paris in 1900 that women were first allowed to participate. Twenty-two female athletes competed in the games with sailor Helene de Pourtales becoming the first female Olympic champion.

Fast forward to the 1992 Summer Olympics and there were still thirty-five countries sending all-male delegations of athletes, but by 2010, only three countries had never sent female athletes to the Games. This brings us to London 2012, where every country represented has sent at least one female athlete. In addition, women will be competing for the first time in boxing.

There is no shortage of inspiring stories from these trailblazers. Many have overcome enormous obstacles, both physically and emotionally. This week we honor them.


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