The British Olympic rower Helen Glover told the Telegraph recently that she nearly decided not to try out for her country's rowing team. She had just finished university and wanted to begin her career; but then she was offered a scholarship that gave her an opportunity to row for the first time. Within four years, she was an become an Olympic victor.
"When I was at school I was quite strong-minded, I started up sports teams, I played in the boys' football team," she said in the interview. "But I was also frustrated at how much seemed available to the boys."
In the U.S., the enactment of Title IX four decades ago gave girls equal opportunities to participate in school-based sports. America now has the highest participation rates in sport for women and girls in the world. Yet it remains the case that even here (particularly at college level), parity between men and women has not been reached.
A major impediment to getting girls to practice sports may be one of funding, but there are other stumbling blocks too, such as teen attitudes and peer pressure. That's why it's crucial to have role models like Glover and the U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas.
More women in sports means better public health all round, and will help to ensure that women can thrive and gain equality with men. Luckily, as the Olympics revealed, the determination of many women to succeed, in sports -- and in other realms, too -- is stronger than ever.