Celebrating Women's History
"The Gold" Begins with Opportunity
by M.L Faunce
The morning after the perpetually perky Tara Lipinsky took the gold in women's figure skating at the Olympics in Nagano, my five-year-old niece Katie had her first ice skating lesson.
As the Zamboni steamed over the rink adding a fresh layer of ice, excitement reigned. Then the instructor, of some former Olympic fame, lifted her arms and beckoned the youngsters forward. Small figures on single blades swarmed and inched their way across the slick surface and the threshold of a new life experience.
Watching my niece adrift on the far side of the rink with no instructor handy, seeing her ponder her momentary fate, then launch herself on an uncertain journey, was a proud moment. Her determination and wobbly success made me realize this: whether these kids will become future Olympians - or come simply to enjoy the freedom and grace of gliding on ice - matters less than having this opportunity. The ice may hold a mirror to their dreams, but it is opportunity that makes the dreams come true.
Observing Women's History Month in March through the reflection of the 18th Winter Games just held in Nagano is one way of measuring the progress girls and women have made in athletics in our own country and elsewhere. To compare the Japan of today to the country I visited around the time of the last Winter Olympics held there, at Sapporo in 1972, is to find ready testimony to the vastly different world young women thrive in today.
Back then, as a young woman traveling alone, I saw that to the Japanese, women were invisible. How can you prosper, personally or professionally, when you are not acknowledged as worthy of recognition? But times and we have changed. Today we can criticize the country that did not allow its female athlete to travel to Japan to compete - if we don't forget our own country's long wait before passing legislation assuring equal opportunity in sports to our young women.
As they hosted these prestigious international games, the Japanese took a hard look at themselves and decided they had some past sins to atone for. Settling past grievances with symbolic gestures is an initiative other progressive nations are trying with some success these days. Whether the sin is war, as the Japanese confessed, or subjugation by sex or color or creed, such expiations make positive steps toward helping us out of the mire of our past and recognizing our shared global future. Any attempt to bring us - countries and genders and races alike - closer together is better than none.
After the American team won a gold medal in the first-ever women's hockey event at Nagano, team Captain Cammi Granata said "it's everything I dreamed about." Wayne Gretsky of Canada brought us back down to earth with sage wisdom when he reminded us that the value of competition is that "it teaches us how to win and how to lose." Gretsky knows something about both.
The games at Nagano opened with the aria "One Great Day," from Puccini's Madam Butterfly, and throughout the games we heard Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" echo around the Olympic village and across the airwaves to those watching the events around the world.
The music and the themes struck at these Olympic Games made me think about the girls and boys I saw skating with my niece Katie. All seemed to be on equal footing. For starters, they were certainly full of joy. Maybe the class of 2018 will have such opportunity that their one great day returns everyday.
| Back to Archives |
Volume VI Number 9
March 5-11, 1998
New Bay Times
| Homepage |