Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Olympics: Now make a level playing field for women

By Jackie Joyner-Kersee, special to CNN
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Jackie Joyner-Kersee says Jessica Ennis lived up to the pressure she was under to become an Olympic champion.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee says Jessica Ennis lived up to the pressure she was under to become an Olympic champion.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee: The Games fostered a generation of hope
  • Participation of female athletes from around the world showed how far we've come, she says
  • But she says it was saddening that women's softball weren't a part of these Olympics games
  • Joyner-Kersee: We must not forget that lack of funding can be an issue for female athletes

Editor's note: Jackie Joyner-Kersee is a former long jump and heptathlon U.S. athlete. She has won three Olympic gold medals, one silver and two bronze, and is considered by many to be the greatest female all-round athlete in history.

(CNN) -- The 2012 London Olympic Games fostered a generation of hope. I witnessed women participating for the very first time, representing every nation. Congratulations to 800 meter runner Sara Attar and judoka Wokdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani. Shahrkhani represented Saudi Arabia in judo and was among a number of other pioneer women who were part of the very first Olympics in which every country sending a team to London included at least one female athlete.

Read more: Arab sportswomen finally in the picture

Former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Their participation and that of athletes from Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, Qatar and other nations exemplifies how far we've come, on a global level. The celebration of 40 years of title IX -- legislation that guaranteed equal opportunities in women's college athletics -- what a year to celebrate!

The performances of USA women's basketball (five consecutive gold medals), USA women's soccer (bouncing back from the World Cup loss to capture the gold against Japan), Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, after motherhood showed they are still the "Queens of the Beach" with an historic three-peat, and let's not forget double-gold for the Williams family in tennis and the stunning performance of Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter breaking a 27-year-old world record in the 4x100m relay, and Jamaican Frazier-Price winning back-to-back gold in the women's 100 meters and Ethiopian Tiunesh Dibaba making history in the women's 10,000 meters.

Women make their mark on the Games
The rise of the Arab female athlete
Lady boxer breaks Games glass ceiling
Jessica Ennis not in Games for money

Sanya Richards-Ross (400m), Felix (200m), Australia's Sally Pearson 100m hurdles, Brittany Reese (long jump) and Jenn Suhr (pole vault), as well as teenagers like Missy Franklin (swimming), Gabby Douglas (gymnastics), Claressa Shields (boxing), all claimed their very first individual gold medals. Jessica Ennis of Great Britain, the face of the games, lived up to the pressure and became an Olympic champion by winning the most demanding event (in my opinion) for a female athlete; the hepthalon.

Opinion: Why we need Gabby

Dawn Harper, Jeter, Dee Dee Trotter, Brigetta Barrett, LaShinda Demus, Veronica Campbell, Lia Neal (second African American in swimming to bring home a medal) and the U.S. indoor volleyball team also all came away with medals.

To each of those remarkable athletes, and all of the women (and men) from around the world who came to London and put forth their very best efforts I extend a heartfelt congratulations. It was an honor for me to watch you, providing a wonderful trip down memory lane.

As exciting as these games were for women, it saddened me to know that women's softball wasn't a part of these Olympic Games and we still must not forget our female athletes come from grass roots programs and lack of funding is always an issue. We live in a world where sports have the potential to bridge the gap between racism, sexism and discrimination. The 2012 Olympic Games was a great start but hopefully what these games taught us is that if women are given an opportunity on an equal playing field the possibilities for women are endless.

Read more: Was London 2012 the women's Olympics?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT