Canadian team roster reflects gender gap at Paralympic Winter Games – Smithers Interior News

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A gaping gender gap at the Paralympic Winter Games continues, with Canada’s team reflecting this imbalance.

The International Paralympic Committee trumpeted a record number of women competing in Beijing, but 138 still represent just 24% of the 564 international athletes.

In comparison, 45% of the athletes participating in the Beijing Winter Olympics were women.

The 48-person Canadian Paralympic team, including the guides, includes 13 women for 27 per cent.

There were originally 14 women on the team, but one skier withdrew from women’s alpine skiing competition due to injury.

The 10-day Paralympic Games in Beijing opened on Friday and will end on March 13.

The gender disparity was not as pronounced at the Tokyo Paralympic Games last summer, with 42% of female athletes participating.

More than half of the 128 Canadian athletes in Tokyo were women, with 71 representing 55% of the team.

This is partly due to Canada qualifying in three women’s team sports.

The elephant in the Paralympic Winter Games room is para hockey, which used to be called sledge hockey. It’s the only big team sport and it’s male.

“There’s no question that team sport and team sport bias is kind of the number one challenge,” Canadian Paralympic Committee President Karen O’Neill told The Canadian Press from Beijing. .

The IPC put a “mixed” label on para hockey ahead of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, BC

But only three women – two Norwegians and one Chinese – have ever been on a Paralympic Games roster.

Jing Yu, from the host country, is the only female para-hockey team in Beijing. Lists are 17 players, but countries can bring an 18th if that player is a woman.

Canada is one of the few countries, along with the United States and Great Britain, to have established women’s national para hockey teams.

Women who want to play para hockey at its highest level – the Paralympics are their Stanley Cup – must currently build a men’s roster.

“That’s what girls and women around the world are being told, it’s ‘OK, let’s go get those best rosters and get there because that’s your only option,'” Tara Chisholm said. , who coaches the Canadian Women’s Para Hockey Team.

“I know our women watching the Paralympics this week want the same opportunities that the men they play with at home in their club teams have this week.”

While a World Women’s Para Hockey Challenge is planned for this summer, more participating countries are needed for a legitimate world championship and therefore entry into the Paralympic Games.

Chisholm doesn’t expect those to happen in time for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina, Italy, with 2030 being the best bet.

Andrea Bundon, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, studies the gender gap at the Paralympic Games due to her experience as a guide for visually impaired Para-Nordic skiers Courtney Knight (2010) in Whistler and Margarita Gorbounova (2014) in Sochi, Russia.

“They had a strong preference for a female guide,” Bundon said. “A lot of guides are men. The reason for this is that it is easier to find a man who is faster than you than to find a woman who is faster than you but does not run herself.

“I think I was one of two female guides in Sochi. We line up at the start line, and although it’s a women’s event, there are a lot of men on the start line.

“It made us look more generally at who is at the Games? Why do we see so few women as athletes, as coaches, managers, wax technicians. Where are the women?

There are 39 medal events for men, 35 for women and four mixed events at the Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Introducing mixed-gender events like relays doesn’t necessarily increase the number of female participants, Bundon said.

“They create a balance in the number of medals available for men and women, but they don’t create more places in the team,” she explained. “You use athletes who are already there. You have the same female athlete with one more race.

“It doesn’t incentivize nations to develop more women’s pathways or support more women.”

Nationally, the CPC runs a recruiting suit called the Paralympian Search, similar to the Canadian Olympic Committee’s training ground, in which athletes from across the country are tested for power, speed and endurance. to pair them with a sport.

“We realized a lot of women and young girls just don’t come out,” O’Neill said.

A pilot project for women in 2021, which was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attracted more than 30 applications, she said.

“Because of the experience gained and the numbers, we knew we had to continue down this path,” O’Neill said.

The IPC committed nearly two decades ago to achieving a target of 30% women in leadership positions.

“They’re not even close to that yet,” Bundon said.

O’Neill says there is more gender parity in technical roles such as summer training than winter, but more work needs to be done on that front overall.

“When we look at the data and look at some of the barriers, cultural and societal are always in the top three,” she said.

O’Neill believes a successful Vancouver bid for the 2030 Winter Games would give Canada a role in accelerating women into the winter Paralympic movement, particularly if women’s para hockey is on the menu.

“I think something as targeted as the 2030 bid to spotlight women in Paralympic sport, hosted by Canada, would be an incredible incentive to close that gap further and use the track of the next eight years to investing in the technical, the participation in some targeted areas, which I think would raise the bar and set a new standard,” she said.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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