This year’s Olympics have been hailed by many as “The Year of the Woman.” There are more women than men competing on the U.S. teams. (That’s a first.) Every participating nation had at least one female athlete. (That’s a first.) And the U.S. women’s swim team was coached by a woman. (It’s peculiar to me that that’s a first, too.)
I do love the sound of “The Year of the Woman.” It’s got a certain ring to it, no? I happen to think it’s not the first. Lorna Johnstone comes to mind. What a woman. She was 70 years old—seventy years old!—when she competed in the 1972 Olympic Games as an equestrian (her third time in the Olympics).
Check out this picture of “Queenie” Newall, who won the gold medal in 1908:
Don’t you just love her in that ankle-length prairie skirt and smart little hat? I bet nobody messed with Queenie. When she won her medal, she was 53 years old. The average life expectancy for women at the time was 54.
What about Dara Torres? The swimmer was more than twice the age of some of her competition when she took home three silver medals at the 2008 Olympic Games. That’s just plain awesome.
Recently the Bleacher Report released a report—I’ll use the term very loosely—on the “100 Hottest Female Olympians of 2012.” If that isn’t absurd, I don’t know what is. While even I’ve marveled at the barely-pubescent Olympians that are always somewhere to be found in the Olympic Games, it’s the 50+ set that inspires me. Maybe it’s because I’m a little older now. Maybe it’s because I know how aging feels. But mostly it’s because they represent something that totally transcends “hotness.” They represent perseverance and strength and confidence, and those are better than hot. They’re beautiful. Come to think of it, I’d say these Olympics might have marked “The Year of the Women,” but the “Year of the Woman has already happened—more than once—thanks to the likes of Dara and Queenie and Lorna.