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The Way The Media Talks About Female Olympians Needs To Change

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So far this Olympics, Katinka Hosszu broke the world record in the 400-meter individual medley. Shooter Corey Cogdell won her second bronze medal. Katie Ledecky broke her own world record in the 400-meter freestyle. The headlines write themselves, right? Well, not if you're concerned with the real stars of these stories — these athletes' husbands (and the male athletes they may or may not resemble).

Sadly, this seems to be the opinion of the commentators and sports writers charged with covering these amazing accomplishments by female Olympians.

Last Saturday night, for example, Hosszu had a momentous victory, with her husband and coach Shane Tusup cheering from the sidelines. We got a pretty cute GIF out of this moment, and we'd never want to rag on a supportive significant other, but NBC commentator Dan Hicks took this visual as a cue to suggest that Hosszu's husband had more to do with her win than Hosszu herself. After her win, the cameras cut to Tusup as Hicks reportedly said he was "the guy responsible."

As Jezebel reports, Hosszu has dealt with people crediting her husband-cum-coach with her successes for some time now and that "[i]t’s true that Tusup is tied closely to Hosszu’s success — not only as her coach, but as her main pillar of emotional support." That said, it doesn't excuse Hicks' comments and it certainly doesn't answer this question: When was the last time a man's accomplishment was credited to his wife?
Hicks later told the Associated Press that "with live TV, there are often times you look back and wished you had said things differently."

Cogdell's mistreatment following her win on Sunday is a bit simpler and much more blatant. The Chicago Tribune framed her victory around her husband, Bears lineman Mitch Unrein. This could be chalked up to Unrein playing for a Chicago team, but the man wasn't even in Rio when Cogdell won her medal. We could name a million ways to frame the story that accurately describes both her accomplishments as well as her relevance to Chicago-based readers, specifically. For example: "Corey Cogdell-Unrein, Olympian With Deep Chicago Connection, Wins Bronze" could have worked. As one Twitter user pointed out, they didn't even include Cogdell's name.


This headline also would have been accurate.


Of course, you don't need to be a current Olympian to deal with this kind of media treatment — just ask the Magnificent 7. When it comes to female athletes, apparently it's not what you've done, but whom you're married to that's worth discussing.
That brings us finally to Katie Ledecky. You know, probably the greatest swimmer — no, the greatest athlete — we'll see in a couple lifetimes. She broke a record she set herself last night, with comments like those from 2012 Olympian Connor Jaeger, who said she "swims like a man," hanging over her head. In a refreshing turn of events, NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines took this opportunity to clarify that "she doesn't swim like a man, she swims like Katie Ledecky." Let's hope everyone's taking notes on Gaines' response — this is how we should be talking about female athletes.
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