Focus on appearance leaves some female Olympians in poverty

Sarah Robles

U.S. Olympian weightlifter
Sarah Robles


There seems to be an annoyingly persistent trend regarding female athletes at these Olympic games. If you’re trim and cute — say, a member of the Dutch women’s field hockey team, you’re good to go. You can look forward to face time with the press, endorsements and maybe even earn yourself one of NBC’s overly dramatic, sob-story-behind-the-athlete spots. If, however, your sport requires a physique that’s maybe slightly less feminine, perhaps you’re a swimmer or a weightlifter, you’re on your own. You stand to either be criticized for being too manly, like British weightlifter Zoe Smith, or — possibly worse — ignored entirely.

Take U.S. weightlifter Sarah Robles for example. She’s ranked no. 1 among U.S. women listed in the super heavyweight division and placed 11th at last year’s world championships. She’s 5’10.5″, 275 pounds, and can lift well over twice her own body weight (her best is 568 lbs!). Definitely a world-class athlete at the top of her game. So what’s the problem? She’s relatively unknown to the general sports-viewing public, which makes it difficult for her to secure substantial endorsements. Robles says it best herself in an interview with BuzzFeed:

“You can get a sponsorship if you’re a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini. But not if you’re a girl who’s built like a guy.”


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