THE BLOG

The 5th World Conference on Women and Sport

02/22/2012 09:19 am ET | Updated Apr 23, 2012
  • Diana Nyad Long-distance swimmer, journalist, and broadcaster

The 5th World Conference on Women and Sport took place in Los Angeles over the past few days. Dignitaries from the International Olympic Committee, the London Olympic Games, and sports organizing bodies from all over the world were here, with the focus on women athletes and their issues on today's world stage. I was asked to give the final keynote of the conference, in conjunction with actress Geena Davis, who has not only been an advocate for women athletes for many years now but who impressively made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Olympic Trials in archery just a few years ago.

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I used my 20 or so minutes to recount the personal drama of what sports have done for my entire person, my entire life. Confidence, long-term belief, discipline, grace in defeat -- all qualities that help us make a good life -- were constructed as my personal foundation directly through my participation in sports.

Yet, as much as the Title IX law and the evolution of acceptance of women playing sports in this country has seen huge growth in girls' athletic scholarships, more professional prize money, more sponsorship dollars for women athletes, women in all sports will tell you the battle for coaching, financial support, media coverage and all other measures of respect still rages on.

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Then when we hear from the women of many African and Middle Eastern countries, where playing sports is a luxury far beyond simple rights such as voting and basic education, the conference turns to programs and ideas that include a vision of one day allowing all women to garner the wealth of joy and character that come with pursuing our athlete selve -- a pursuit that our brothers seem to earn as a birth right.