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September 10, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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Vili for Victory

With the eyes of the nation focusing on both the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille and Mt. Smart Stadium in Auckland this past weekend, I thought it only pertinent given this week’s issue to spin our sporting telescope back towards two weeks ago, when the halls of New Zealand sporting excellence opened its doors to Valerie Vili.

The 22-year-old Aucklander broke both the New Zealand and the Oceania women’s shot put records with an impressive throw of 20.54m en route to ensnaring gold at the World Athletics Champs in Japan – an impressive feat by anyone’s standards, male or female – and achieved but a year out from the Beijing Olympics.

Perhaps more important is the fact that our Val is still (by shot putting standards) years away from revelling in the peak of her powers. Nadzeya Ostapchuk, the woman whom Vili ousted from the gold medal podium by a mere 6cm, has hardly shot her last put at the tender age of 27, while Germany’s Nadine Kleinert (who claimed third) proved that at 32 she was no slouch either. This bodes well for the young Kiwi who (one would hope) has at least three Olympics left in her – all of which will feature her standing on the medal podium to the docile tune of God Defend New Zealand. The sad thing is this could well be the only time we hear about our latest world champion.

Now, I’m certainly no tinfoil-hat wearing larrikin standing outside Whitcoulls on Lambton Quay handing out pamphlets that describe in desperately terse sentences the conspiracy amongst the news media to denounce the success of our country’s sportswomen in favour of sporting juggernauts like Michael Campbell and David Tua. I do, however, find it unfortunate that the level of coverage of our female world champions – of which the Black Ferns and the Silver Ferns can also be included – is so dreadfully minimal.

The kind of relationship sport has with business interests means that the success of our women on the world sporting stage will never fully mean acquiescence with the demands of the discerning sporting public. Radio’s Murray Deaker has said that he would love to dedicate two or three hours of his afternoon weekend show on Newstalk ZB to women’s sport, but the predicted drop in ratings rendered that idea little more than that – an idea.

It’s a shame, really.

Now, a token nod from the sports columnist in a well-to-do university publication during its women’s issue is one thing, but maybe we’ve overlooked the potential that can be fostered in giving much more word and airspace to our world-beating women. After all, success is magically delicious, and it certainly doesn’t taste any worse when it’s served by a woman.

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