Zest editor Mandie Gower spent an evening with Nick Clegg and a host of inspiring female athletes to encourage coverage of female sport
Last week, we were guests of Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez at a drinks reception ‘to celebrate Olympic Women 2012’. Nick credited Miriam with coming up with the idea (“and I always do what she says, on pain of death”, he joked), but also spoke seriously about the need for women’s sport to have more mainstream coverage and support. No arguments there from the crowd, although as commentating legend Clare Balding told me, “it’s what happens in non-Olympic years that’s really important”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost every conversation touched on the struggle for recognition at some point or another, but the atmosphere in the grand drawing room at Admiralty House was relaxed, upbeat and celebratory, with athletes swapping stories about the unexpected hazards of competing (try getting fencing equipment through airport security), and upcoming stars excitedly reporting back on their experiences at the Youth Olympics in Innsbruck.
In fact, while we chatted with legends like Skeleton champion Amy Williams, skating instituition Jane Torvill and paralympian gold medallist Sophie Christiansen (who told me about her team’s excrutiating wait to quality - dressage are the last discipline to finalise their team), it was 17-year-old Jazmin Sawyers who stole the show for us. Articulate, passionate and already a success in two disciplines, she’s giving talks in schools to encourage more girls in to sport, and posts behind the scenes videos from events on YouTube to show “the amazing social life too”. Her thrilling tales of the bobsleigh had MP Jo Swinson covering her eyes, and she lost no time in confidently telling Nick Clegg her ambition to be Britain’s first winter and summer Olympian. Way to go Jazmin!
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