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side by side: women to watch at the 2016 rio olympic games

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Can you believe the Rio Olympics are here? For the first time, Australia will be sending more female athletes than men to the games, with the last-minute qualification of Australia’s women’s eight rowing team after Russia’s ban pushing us over the line to 50.6%.

That means there are more women than ever to watch this August, as we spend two weeks watching every sport under the sun and thinking ‘hang on, how have I been sitting on the couch for the last four hours?’ (Or is that just me?) So here’s a round-up of some of the amazing athletes that will be competing.


Our national women’s team, the Matildas, are an exciting case. Currently ranked fifth in the world, their best Olympic showing was fifth at Athens in 2004. The tournament favourites, and last year’s World Cup winners, the US, will certainly be the ones to beat. These games are the first time Australia has qualified for the Olympics since Greece. However, this is the most experienced squad they’ve sent to an international tournament since the World Cup in 2007, and women such as Lisa De Vanna, the only Olympian in the team, have talked up their chances.


Our basketball team, the Opals, will be up there, having won bronze four years ago and silver the previous three Games. However, the Olympic gold has remained elusive and that’ll be the goal. One to watch will be the incredible 203cm tall centre Liz Cambage, who was the first woman to slam dunk at the Olympics in 2012.


As usual, in the swimming, our women are dominating. The Campbell sisters (how awesome are they?), Bronte and Cate, will be up against each other in the 50m and 100m freestyle, as well as teaming up for the 4 x 100m freestyle and medley relays. Emily Seebohm is also the current 100m backstroke world champion. Emma McKeon is making her Olympic debut in five different events.


It’s an exciting time for the Rugby Sevens as well, going into the Olympics as gold medal favourites. SBS Zela have put together a fantastic guide to their competition, who could cause an upset. We’ve even got representation at the refereeing level, with Australian Amy Perrett overseeing the tournament as one of two Australian representatives.


In terms of cycling, Anna Meares, two-time gold medal winner and flagbearer at today’s Opening Ceremony, will be at her fourth Olympic Games. Stephanie Morton will be making her Olympic debut, having won a gold medal at the Paralympics in 2012 as a pilot rider on the tandem bike.


Unfortunately, everyone’s favourite Sally Pearson had to pull out from the Rio Olympics, meaning that she couldn’t defend her gold medal in the 100m hurdles. However, keep an eye out for long distance runner Eloise Wellings, who is a founding director of the Love Mercy Foundation. The foundation supports northern Ugandan women by increasing access to healthcare and education. Wellings will be competing in the 5,000m and 10,000m.


Finally, a super cool story to come out of the Rio Olympics is that of Sue Hearn, who will be making her Olympic debut for the dressage team at age 60. One of her teammates, Mary Hanna, will become Australia’s oldest competing Olympian, aged 61 years and 253 days on the day.

This is just a selection of the 212 women that will be competing at the Rio Olympics. There are all sorts of other sports to watch – from beach volleyball to weightlifting, judo to gymnastics. Back our women!

(Don’t forget, it’s not all over on August 21. There’ll be more sport to watch, with the Paralympics starting on September 7).

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