The reigning Olympic high jump champion and professor at the European Atlantic University, Ruth Beitia, talks about the role of women in sports during Women’s Month.
Beitia has a long sporting and professional career. She has a degree in physiotherapy, is a technician in Physical Activities and Sports Animation, as well as an athletics instructor. She participated in four Summer Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal in London 2012 and a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro 2016, and is currently a professor in the Physical Activity and Sport Sciences degree at the University where she teaches “Individual Sports I: Athletics – Sprinting” to first-year students and “Individual Sports III: Athletics – Jumps and Throws” in the second year.
What is the percentage of men and women enrolled in the Physical Activity and Sports Sciences degree program?
I am not aware of the percentage. It is true that there are fewer women than men enrolled in the degree, but I have seen that the number of girls has increased this year, and I am very happy about that. In sports, women have taken a giant step forward compared to the last century, and it is thanks to those women who worked hard in the forties and fifties so that we could have it much easier today. It is now our students who, in the future, will transmit to the new generations what sports and athletics are, and that women have the possibility of teaching physical education classes to a wide group of people.
Going back to the first point, I believe that this difference in percentage is due to the fact that there is still a feeling that sports are more for men than for women. It is true that, for example, this percentage is more equitable in athletics. In fact, I think there are more women than men, and I can proudly say that the number of women and men in the section was the same during the last championships.
What can you tell us about the role of women in sports?
Women play a very important role. For example, at the London Olympics, which were called the “Women’s Games” in Spain, women have always defended their flag, their country, and their team just like men. That’s why I say that women should not be addressed as “sportswomen” but simply as athletes.
Do you consider that there still exists inequality in sports?
I do believe that inequality still exists, and I also believe that such a thing is not understood in individual sports and the individual figure. Nadal is in tennis, but Mirella Belmonte is in swimming, and Carolina Marin in badminton.
It is also true that they are achieving better or equal results than men in team sports, which is where a significant gap in terms of salary, image, or representation in media exists.
We should be thankful at being fortunate that evolution has enabled us to showcase ourselves, such as in social media. And that is precisely what often makes the media echo what we are doing and what we achieve.
Why is it important to practice physical activity in an adaptive manner?
It is important because, physiologically, women and men are very different, by which it is important for there to be sports activities adapted to women.
Sports are very beneficial for us, because we go through two very important phases of change in our lives: first menstruation, then menopause. In both stages, physical education helps a lot, especially in the latter because it helps strengthen the immune system, helps prevent osteoporosis, stress or anxiety and makes us get out of the house, socialize, and create endorphins.
In this way, we women have to feel like athletes without forcing the word having a gender associated with it.
As an Olympic medalist, what advice would you give to a woman seeking to achieve high performance in sports?
I think that you have to enjoy yourself from the beginning. Sports provides us with many values that we can apply in our lives, by which it is necessary to work on it from its foundation.
However, there are women who take this step later. But they should still enjoy it because it is never too late. Yes, it is true that high performance sports and training is hard, so you have to enjoy it every day. And if that sport is competitive, you enjoy it even more because it really is a display of every hour of work you have devoted to practicing it.
In this sense, the European University of the Atlantic is proud to have such a qualified professor as Ruth Beitia. In addition, UNEATLANTICO will offer the Master in Physical Activity Aimed at Women this coming May, with the aim of highlighting the recognized benefits of physical exercise for women of all ages in promoting their health and improving their quality of life.