Andy Murray: Olympic champion and strident feminist
Andy Murray has won his second Olympic gold medal for Team GB in Rio. The Scot said his finale match against Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro was one of the toughest of his career. After Murray triumphed with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 score, both players sat on the bench and sobbed.
Winning his second Olympic gold at Rio might have been enough to score him National Treasure points. But Murray wasn’t finished there. When commentator John Inverdale stepped forward to tell Murray ‘you’re the first person to win two gold medals’ Murray quickly reminded Inverdale that, in fact, he wasn’t. ‘Venus and Serena [Williams] have won four each’ he shot back.
This isn’t the first time tennis commentators have accidentally forgotten that women exist. Days before Murray won his first Wimbledon singles title in 2013, several news outlets excitedly anticipated ‘the first British person to win Wimbledon since 1936’, when Virginia Wade had won it in 1977, a tennis player who is both British and a person.
This was the same year Inverdale speculated on Radio 5 Live that French player Marion Bartoli’s singles title win at Wimbledon was down to her Dad telling her she wasn’t very pretty. ‘I wonder if her dad did say to her, “Listen, you’re never going to be a looker”‘ he said, ‘”You’re never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.”‘
We’re sure that’s how Murray, Federer and Nadal got into sport too: crushing disappointment in their potential earnings as male models.
In a blog for L’Equipe, Murray wrote earlier this year that he had become a feminist after seeing the unfair treatment of his former coach Amélie Mauresmo:
‘The staggering thing was that she was slated every time I lost, which is something my former coaches never, ever experienced. It wasn’t right. I got off to a bad start last season and things have only got better since Amélie arrived. I was ranked 11th in September 2014, I’m now ranked third – it speaks for itself. They say I was plucky choosing Amélie but, truth be told, if anyone was plucky it was Amélie – she’s the one who’s taken the heat. Her competence was always under fire. I felt embarrassed.”’
This is not the first accusation of sexism levelled at coverage of the Rio Olympics. Earlier in the games, the Chicago Tribune celebrated shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein’s medal by tweeting ‘Wife of a bears lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics’, because frankly who cares what her name is when her husband is a lineman for the Bears!
Meanwhile, over on Fox news two men were busy debating the importance of female athletes wearing make-up: ‘I think when you see an athlete, why should I have to look at some chick’s zits?’ one of them said, with towering insight, ‘Why not a little blush on her lips and cover those zits!’ (remember ladies: that triple ‘back will count for zero if you forget to sweep on some High Beam before hitting the high beam!)
But possibly one of the most headache-inducing pieces of sports commentary came from NBC spokesman John Miller. Miller had worked out why more women than men watch the Olympics, even though they’re ‘not particularly sports fans.’ So why do they, John? Is it because the Olympics is the greatest combined display of human physical achievement in the world, one that only happens every four years, and one that anybody – man or woman – could not fail to be interested in? Not exactly. ‘More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one.’ But of course – it’s because the Olympics remind us of Keeping Up With The Kardashians! Genius!