It is saddening that women in sport are still not given the same representation as their male counterparts, even though one of sport’s greatest qualities is its ability to give anyone a platform to shine. Progress towards equality across the world has been frustratingly slow, with South Africa one notable nation where women are continually under-represented in sport. However, there are several South African women who are excelling in a sporting context to close the archaic gender gap, with many of these women recognised at this year’s Momentum GSport Awards.
This was just the fifteenth edition of South Africa’s longest-running sporting awards for women, which highlights the recency of attempts to close the gender gap in South African sport. The GSport Awards have become established as the country’s most prestigious celebration of sporting women, acknowledging everyone from individual athletes to successful teams, from coaches to fans, from journalists to volunteers.
This year’s winners
Here are those crowned in a selection of the headline categories from the 2020 Momentum GSport Awards:
Athlete of the Year: Hayley Nixon, the World Surfski Champion
Athlete with Disability: Kgothatso Montjane, one of the country’s finest tennis stars and a five-time GSport champ
Coach of the Year: Desiree Ellis, head coach of Banyana Banyana – the country’s football team
Emerging Athlete: Caitlin Rooskrantz, an up-and-coming gymnast
Team of the Year: SPAR Proteas, the nation’s decorated netball side
For a full list of the winners, check out the official GSport website.
Closing the gender gap
There’s no doubt that women in South Africa are competing at a significant disadvantage compared to their male contemporaries. You can even quantify the gender gap in South African sport by comparing the salaries of male and female stars. The male players pulling on a shirt for Bafana Bafana earned R60,000 for a competitive victory in 2019, while the female footballers of Banyana Banyana were awarded just R5,700 for the same success. Another startling statistic is that just one rugby player for the Springboks earns more than the total salary of the women’s sevens squad.
These massive disparities are the result of traditional perceptions of women in sport, with financial investments from sporting authorities and sponsors still reflecting the notion that men are somehow superior. Meaningful systemic change can be an annoyingly slow process, but it is accelerated by the incredible sporting achievements of South African women.
Take Desiree Ellis, who won Coach of the Year for the first time after three consecutive nominations. Ellis was a founding member of Banyana Banyana, who eventually became the coach after hanging up her boots. Ellis took Banyana Banyana to their first World Cup in 2019, and now has serious aspirations of guiding the team to the African Cup of Nations title in 2022. Women’s football is surging in popularity across the world, and Ellis’ guidance has helped to give Banyana Banyana continental and global recognition.
Aspiring South African footballers can now see a pathway to the World Cup with Banyana Banyana, thanks to the pioneering work of Ellis and her players. In the same way, women who love watersports should be inspired by Nixon the Surfski dynamo, and burgeoning gymnasts will be keen to follow in the footsteps of Rooskrantz and the rest of the SA Gymnastics Federation.
The Momentum GSport Awards provide a suitable stage to celebrate the outstanding achievements of South African women, with these sporting stars lighting the way for future generations. The GSports also make it impossible for governing bodies and sponsors to ignore the incredible array of sporting talent among South African women, which should hopefully encourage increased investment geared towards closing that antiquated gender gap.