Shot Put has a long history to trace back. The first evidence for stone throwing appeared in approximately the first century in the Scottish Highlands. The official shot put competitions were first recorded in the early 19th century in Scotland. Men’s shot put became an official modern Olympic sport in 1896, however, the women’s shot put didn’t become an official sport in the Olympics until 1948, which is more than a half-century later! Women have surely faced more challenges as they try to achieve equality in sports.
Micheline Ostermeyer was the first female Olympic medalist in Shot Put. She won her medal in the 1948 London Olympic Games, which is the first Olympics where women could compete in Shot Put. However, the medal she won didn’t make her life easier. Micheline was an excellent pianist before she was asked to compete in the discus event by the French Olympic team. After the Olympics, Micheline turned her attention back to her beloved music, but the stereotype was unavoidable. Some people dismissed her musical talent because of her athletic prowess; they thought that a person couldn’t be good at both music and sport, not to mention a woman. For years, Micheline wouldn’t play music by Franz Liszt, who was a prolific Hungarian composer, because she felt his work was “too sportif.” Though she had to wait a long time after her retirement from Shot Put, Micheline was able to enjoy a successful career as a soloist and teacher.
At that time, most people believed that women couldn’t participate in the male-dominated events like shot put, throwing, weightlifting, etc. They felt those female athletes weren’t ladylike and a woman should not do the sport. Even women athletes themselves were concerned with being labeled “weird.” Public opinion forced women to stay inside to do housework and destroyed women’s talent indirectly. Many brilliant women athletes were being constrained. They could have been shining stars, but people refused to see their brightness. Despite the challenges on the long journey towards sexual equality, we do see some significant development in women’s Shot Put, particularly in American society.
Michelle Carter is the first American women Shot Put medalist since the first Olympic Games that allowed women to participate, and only the second American to win any medal. She set her record in the 2016 Olympic Games with a distance of 20.63m (67ft 8in). Like Micheline Ostermeyer, she has another job. She is a certified professional makeup artist. Unlike Micheline Ostermeyer, her other identity didn’t bring her anything but style and elegance on the field. In a New Yorker interview, she defended her personal style: “Should I wear my false lashes or take the time I want to take so I can feel good when I go out on the field? Because nobody else was really doing that. And I thought, No: I’m not going to change what I believe I should look like to fit anybody else’s standards. I believe if you look your best, you’re going to feel your best, you’re going to do your best.”
I personally believe that the recent improvement of people’s opinion of women athletes, or just women in general, played an important role on Michelle’s success. Michelle is confident in herself when she goes out on the field, because she knows there is a large group of people who are supporting her. Carter can’t erase the stereotype which existed for thousands of years, but she and many other ladies are forming a strong force to positively change our society in the future.
I have talked to a Shot Putter in our school’s Track & Field team about her opinion of Shot Put. She believes there are no careers without women’s contribution, though it is definitely not equally distributed. However, she thinks women have shown their place in many male-dominated sports, and in many other professions as well. “Women can do whatever they put their mind to,” she said.
The women’s Shot Put is in a good position moving on towards a next milestone. We’re eager to see more and more brilliant athletes stand on the Olympic field. Neither gender nor race should block anyone from the honor they should receive.
The Track and Field team has a great season ahead of them, and our excellent athletes are going on a journey full of challenges. Please come out and support them!