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Are beautiful women truly the ambassadors of their sport?

Indian golfer Sharmila Nicollet hits a d

I have a huge crush on Sharmila Nicollet. However, I don’t think I’ll ever watch her play golf. I’ve had many sporting crushes before – Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova, Dipika Pallikal, just to name a few. However, I still don’t watch women’s tennis even when they’re playing. I haven’t seen Dipika Pallikal play even once. Call me a sexist if you will, but I would much rather prefer any one of these beautiful women pose for the camera in a pretty dress than watch photos of them playing their respective sport. For the longest time, the gorgeous women of sports have been labelled ‘ambassadors’ of their sport. But are they really?

I don’t follow women’s sports, not passionately anyway. Not because women are playing them, but because ever since I was a child, I have been implicitly trained to idolize the Sachins, the Leanders and the Anands of the sporting world. I’ve heard the story of Milkha Singh a thousand times over (hell, there’s a movie being made on him), but no one ever told me about the struggles of P.T. Usha. I remember reading about her in a textbook, and maybe in an occasional news report, but no one ever told me to be inspired by her tale. All she remained was a chapter in my textbook. Very rarely have I seen anyone being truly excited about a women’s sporting event, except in the very recent case of Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom. And as harsh as this may sound, the primary reason they were in the limelight was because they managed to add to India’s ridiculously low medal count. They weren’t treated as women, but merely numbers that increased the count so that we could have something to cheer about. It would have been interesting to see how much importance these victors would have received had India been world-beaters in the Olympics –as unlikely as that is.

Now, I may sound like I’m belittling women sportspersons, but I assure you, it’s quite the contrary. I am merely stating facts that you can choose to accept. It’s no secret that, atleast in India, women’s sports are hardly given a second look.

I mean who wants to see the Indian women’s cricket team, especially when Sachin is batting? Do they have any pretty-looking player? I might consider googling her pictures and admiring her beauty. Oh, she’s one of the best players in the world? Who cares? The only reason I checked was because she’s good-looking.

The above statement is not a reflection of my thoughts alone, but that of the entire male species, no matter what part of the world. People who ogle at Maria Sharapova don’t care whether she’s ranked no. 1 or no. 100. All they care about is that ‘irresistible smile’, among other unmentionable things. And that is the harsh truth. I’m sure there are men who genuinely enjoy watching women’s tennis, but that figure is a minuscule one.

So, coming back to the point: are pretty sportswomen really ambassadors of the sport they play? Let’s take a look.

Anna Kournikova was a sensation when she made her debut, and was flooded with endorsement offers purely based on her looks. She was by no means one of the best players in the world, yet she made more money than tennis players twice as good as her. She posed for a few fashion brands, became known more as a style icon than a tennis player and retired early, and now has little or nothing to do with the sport.

The Championships - Wimbledon 2010: Day Eight

Maria Sharapova is one of the better players in women’s tennis today. However, I guarantee you, more people are searching for her ‘hot pics’ than checking her biography.

Sania Mirza was considered the next big thing in Indian tennis. She faced a few injuries, lost the form she started off with, struggled for a few years and got married. Now she prefers to come on reality shows all made up like a doll. And although she claims to be serious about her tennis, her performances suggest the contrary.

These are beautiful women who came into the limelight because of their sport – in this case, tennis. However, with the passage of time, people chose to focus more on their looks than their game. Whether they were responsible for it themselves, however, is a subject of intense debate. But the fact remains – the sport did more for these women than they did for the sport. So, are they truly ambassadors of the game, or just pretty women wearing short skirts that tempt hot-blooded men into watching them play? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Yes, I admit there have been more than a few women that have dedicated their life to the sport they chose and succeeded beyond compare. However, can you name a few of these women? Ever heard of Mia Hamm? She’s scored more international goals than any footballer –male or female. Or how about Annika Sorenstam – one of the greatest golfers who ever lived? Or the name of the female boxer who won the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics? Hint: She beat our very own Mary Kom in the semi-finals. The answer is Nicola Adams. These are women who have reached the very pinnacle of their sport and yet, people would much rather watch Ana Ivanovic’s Sports Illustrated spread than give these women a second look.

So, who’s to blame here? The men, for being so shallow, or the women themselves, for milking their good looks dry; so much so, that sometimes people forget that they are sportspersons. The jury is out on that.

Now, if you are expecting me to suggest some remedy or solution to this quandary, I am going to have to disappoint you. The only two things I can think of is for men to shed their caveman instincts (which is NEVER going to happen), or for women – not sportswomen, but the girls-next-door – to consider this an insult to feminism and decide to find their personal sporting heroine. But the girls-next-door would be too busy with more ‘girly’ things, whatever those are. And thus, we have to swallow the bitter truth – women’s sports are not going to get their due importance any time in the near future.

As I end this piece, I am sure that half the people reading this article have already googled Sharmila Nicollet and Ana Ivanovic’s Sports Illustrated spread. Well, such is life. In the meantime, I’ll go back to dreaming about Sharmila’s dreamy face. By the way, happy Women’s Day, for whatever that is worth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the site.

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