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8 Things You May Not Know About Women in Sports

They're 51 percent of the population, and they're playing more and sports every year, but female athletes don't always get the recognition and attention they deserve. In light of that fact, we've decided to count down some interesting and lesser known facts about women in sports. 

1) Bicycle Handle Bars
Have you ever wondered why men's bicycle's traditionally have horizontal handle bars, while women's bikes have more slanted handle bars? It actually dates back to the early days of bicycles, when some folks considered it improper for women (who wore almost exclusively dresses at the time) to be lifting their legs over their handle bars, because they might expose a bit of their legs or even, heaved forbid, some underwear.  

2) USA Women's Soccer
When the US Women's Soccer team took home the FIFA World Cup
trophy in 2015, it was the highest rated Soccer broadcast in
United States history, beating out the memorable matches of Landon Donovan's team in 2010 and Alexi Lalas in 1994. Upwards of 22 million people watched the end of the match. 

3) Women's Soccer Balls 
The move to use smaller balls for female soccer players was based on research suggesting that "that women’s more slender legs and ankles mean that they have to kick a standard soccer ball at a higher velocity, on average, than men to make the same shot." This can result in increased knee and ankle injuries, which have been shown to decrease with use of a smaller ball. 

4) The All-American Girls Professional Ball League
During World War II, many male baseball players were serving overseas. Phillip Wrigley, the
chewing gum magnate for whom Wrigley Field is named, oversaw the creation of a women's only baseball league. Players such as Mary Baker, Annabelle Lee, and Sophie Kurys are captured in this excellent Life Magazine photo essay.

5) Running and Fertility
Another example of how far we've come, in the early part of the 20th century, women were often banned from marathons because it was believed that running caused infertility. You can read more about the modern scientific understanding of the issues at play here. While there are some things to consider (for men and women) hoping to conceive, the health benefits of regular exercise seem to outweigh any negative side effects. 

6) UConn's Women's Basketball
In 2010, the University of Connecticut Huskies Women's Basketball Team finally lost a game, after winning 90 in a row, breaking the record of 88 games set by
John Wooden's UCLA teams. The streak included back to back undefeated championship seasons, a feat not accomplished in the men's game since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. 

7) Title IX
Many collegiate sports were available only for male athletes before the passage of the Education Amendments of 1972. One portion of the law, called Title IX or Title Nine, guaranteed that any program receiving federal funding could not discriminate on the basis of gender. Because most collegiate sports receive this type of funding, this really expanded the options available for female athletes all over the country. 

8) Women in the Olympics 
Women were actually not allowed to compete in the first modern Olympic Games in Greece in 1896. The following games, in 1900, featured only 22 female athletes. In recent years, countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have begun sending women for the first time. According to the New York Times, at the 2012 games in London "About 45 percent of the 10,500 athletes competing [were] women. " 


The Epic of Mo

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Mo Farah who was very fast. Faster than the other boys. Much faster than a normal person needs to be in the normal course of medium-paced life.

He was so fast, his running took him all the way to the Olympics. And even there, among the fastest of the fastest, this little boy, now a man, was…you guessed it…still the fastest.

So where was he to run now? Now that there was no doubt of his speed, and he had the medals to show for it. Now that he was one of the most decorated athletes in the history of Great Britain. Would he stop running? Would he pick up a new hobby? Something like…I don’t know…skee ball? Or would he continue to run? And if so…where would he run to?

As it happened, we’ve uncovered the secret diary of track & field hero Mo Farah, and as it turns out, he never did stop running. The best part is…his diary has pictures.

Day One: I had heard successful professional athletes are sometimes popular with ladies looking for love, but nobody told me they hunt in packs. These runaway brides weren't quite quick enough to catch me. (That's hardly ideal running gear they're wearing.) Still, I hope they find true love somewhere, someday, and never let it get away. Or, at the very least, if not true love, maybe a bachelor party running a marathon in tuxedos. 

Day Two: While I know the ladies looking for husbands meant well, I can't say the same of the next gentleman I met on my epic journey. As a matter of fact, gentleman may be too strong a word  altogether. 
I believe Mr. Cyclops may have had some ill intent toward me. He sure seemed to have an angry expression on his face. Then again, I'd be angry too if somebody hit me that hard with the ugly stick. Luckily for me, I didn't have to use any guile to outsmart him. I just ran the heck out of there. 

Day Three: The people of Springfield greeted me warmly at first. But one off-handed comment about how the lemonade and flapjacks were
better in Shelbyville, and they turned into an angry mob faster than
you can say "DOH!" I got away from them, but I think they're all still out there somewhere. It makes you wonder if they'll ever stop running. I mean it's been like 30 years. And they haven't really been good at running since season 8 or so...But that's none of my business.

Day Four: Anyway, since I had already crossed over into the cartoon realm, (I promise no performance enhancing drugs were consumed on this journey), I decided to pay the teletubbies a visit. What a nice bunch of...creatures. Really a ton
of fun. I couldn't understand much of their squeak language, but they were super duper friendly. I like to think I wasn't running away from Tinky Winky, Dipsy, and the gang as much as I was running with them...while staying a good deal in front.                                        

Day Five: The tubbies may have been a little touchy-feely for my taste, but I sure missed them when I stopped over in Miami. This gentlemen was the least friendly of the bunch, and he didn't even have the ugly excuse like the Cyclops did. He just kept wanting me to meet his little friend. I thought to myself, he was pretty little already, so how small could his friend possibly be? But I never did get the answer to that riddle, because he started shooting at me. I ran really fast that day, kids. Really, really, really fast. I still don't know what made him so angry. Maybe he got cut from his high school track team? That must be it. Anyway, after that, I decided it was about time to head home and start training for 2016.