Unequal coverage still present in the 2016 Olympics

Samantha Casey, co-sports editor

Every time the Olympics take place, athletes from all sports, countries and genders take the global stage. This year’s Olympics was one for the record books: Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel in swimming, Simone Biles in gymnastics, Michelle Carter in the shot put, the list goes on. Women from all nations are breaking records and impressing the world with their talent; yet, here we are in 2016 where women are considered to be “equal” to men, and we are still witnessing sexism in the Olympics.

Most of this sexism comes from the coverage by male commentators and on social media. Instead of female athletes being congratulated for their achievements, commentators compare them to men, define them by their relationships and focus on their appearances.


When Katie Ledecky, five-time Olympic Gold Medalist and three-time World Record holder was setting records and winning events this Olympics, male teammates were saying she swims like a man.

In a profile about Ledecky, Ryan Lochte told Sports Illustrated that, “She swims like a guy. Her stroke, her mentality: She’s so strong in the water. I’ve never seen a female swimmer like that. She gets faster every time she gets in, and her times are becoming good for a guy.”

Connor Jaeger, another USA Swimming Teammate of Ledecky, told the Washington Post that, “Her stroke is like a man’s stroke. I mean that in a positive way. She swims like a man.”

As a female swimmer myself, I fully understand that male swimmers have faster times than females; however, I have never had a male teammate or coach make it seem like the male swimmers are superior. Ledecky is an incredible swimmer, but the way her teammates complimented her implied that they believe male swimmers are superior, which is another example of the subconscious sexist remarks that are made in regards to female athletes.

Another example of this was during three-time Olympic Medalist Simone Biles’ dismount off the uneven bars, when an NBC commentator said, “She might even go higher than some of the men.” Biles countered these remarks by saying, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.” We need to be like Biles and call out the sexism that is present, as that is the only way to raise awareness of it, and then it can hopefully be eliminated.


When Katina Hosszu, Hungarian Swimmer and Three-Time Gold Medalist, broke the world record for the 400 medley relay, NBC Commentator Dan Hicks credited her success to Shane Tusup, her husband and coach. Hicks even said, “[…] and there’s the man responsible,” as the camera filmed Tusup cheering. I understand that a coach helps their swimmers succeed, but in no way should the husband be considered “responsible” for his wife’s success. This perpetuates the idea that women are simply their husband’s property.

Another example of female athletes being defined by their relationships was when the Chicago Tribune referred to Corey Cogdell-Unrein, Trap Shooting Bronze Medalist, as the “Wife of a Bears’ Lineman” in a headline. These women should be recognized for their own achievements and not labeled as the “wife of.” The athlete should receive the congratulations for their athletic achievements.


Instead of discussing the athletic achievements of Olympians, Fox News had a panel discussing whether or not athletes should wear makeup with regular commentators, Bo Dietl and Mark Simone. Dietl directly said on air, “When you see an athlete, why should you have to look at some chick’s zits?I like to see a person that wins that gold medal go up there and look beautiful.”

It is laughable to me that Fox News had a whole segment on this. Do they really expect athletes to wear a full face of makeup before they sweat/get in the pool? In addition to this panel, many other commentators focused on athletes’ clothing rather than their athletic ability. Athletes should be covered on their athletic achievements, not their appearances. If the Olympics were a beauty pageant, comments on makeup and clothing would be appropriate. However, the Olympics are to celebrate athletics and not appearances. Female  athletes should be treated in the same regard as males.