For a long time female athletes have struggled with coming to grips with being an athlete and remaining feminine at the same time. For a while it seemed that both could not go hand in hand and that beauty and athletic prowess were impossible to balance. Girls did not compete in sports because they did not want to alter their figure, or had other plans such as having kids or raising a family. Nowadays though, being a female athlete is considered beautiful in its own right and much effort has been put into promoting female athletics as both beautiful and skillful. However, there is a trend that is beginning to show itself in female athletics in my opinion. The more that the focus of an athlete is her beauty, the less that athlete excels in their sport. Let's take a look at a few examples so I don't get written off as an asshole and a pig.
In every sport it seems that more and more girls are getting involved. In a past article, I wrote about how the LPGA, once a haven for leathery faced nightmare creatures, was gaining more exposure as more and more "marketable" women took to the sport and got good. The face of this change for golf is no doubt in Natalie Gulbis. Gulbis is a total babe; but while she is no doubt a talented golfer, she is nowhere near one of the best in the sport. Having been a pro for 9 years now, she has only won one real LPGA tournament. The same might also be true for Michelle Wie, who sort of became a sneaky hot golfer as she grew up before our eyes. 5 years on tour, 1 win.
The same can be said in tennis for Anna Kournikova, who never won a WTA singles title in her career, but was arguably one of the most popular athletes of all time. She essentially became a model who played tennis on the side before retiring from the sport for good. Once the media focus on Kournikova (and probably her own focus as well) became her looks, the playing career of a once highly touted tennis player crashed and burned.
What about Lindsey Vonn? A great deal was expected of her these olympics as she was the favorite to bring home gold in several events. A few weeks prior to the games though, the SI Swimsuit edition came out featuring Vonn in some incendiary bikini pictures. Magically babelicious. Despite bringing home one gold medal and a bronze, Vonn crashed in two other events that she was favored in, a big disappointment. Fellow skier and gold medalist Julia Mancuso might want to think twice about the repercussions before she launches her "Kiss My Tiara" lingerie line.
Danica Patrick is a bit of a different example of the hotness factor. She is certainly hot, but is trying to win in a sport that is dominated by men. She has also won one race in her career, but her circumstances are a bit different. While it might be a motivating factor for her, the commercial where she re-states a negative comment by a critic that, "She's just a marketing machine" is no doubt food for thought.
There is certainly something to be said for this interesting trend in women's athletics. Why is it that women like this one, this one and this one (apparently she won the super combine that Vonn crashed in) dominate athletics when the women who are praised for both their beauty and skill always seem to struggle? Perhaps their greatness was overstated to begin with and they are just a product of marketing teams as Danica's commercial intends to refute. Perhaps the pressure created by media coverage is too great for them and they cannot deal with it. Perhaps I am just an asshole. Whatever it is, despite a few exceptions, it appears to be a continuing trend in women's sports that with great beauty does not come great success.