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Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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Women are increasingly gaining recognition in gymnastics


While the Olympic Games have become more gender equal, with women accounting for 48% of athletes in Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 expected to achieve full equality, the number of elite female coaches remains remarkably low. The IOC is highlighting female coaches who have broken down barriers and are inspiring future generations through this series. Simone Biles' coach, Cecile Landi, is one of them.

Gymnast Cecile Landi, who represented France at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, is now the coach of Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history. Landi has seen women make strides in many areas of sport and says that, with the exception of gymnastics, men have always had more airtime on television, but that this is changing. Women are finally receiving the recognition they deserve.

The IOC's work on scheduling has aided this progress by allowing women's events to have the same broadcast opportunities in terms of timing and audience. Increasing the number of women's events in key territories during prime time can make a significant difference in raising the visibility and prominence of women's sport.

Meanwhile, as athletes like Serena Williams and Simone Biles achieve new heights in their respective sports, public perceptions are shifting.

“I think it’s shifting in the right direction because women are breaking boundaries and records,” Landi said, adding that many women are also getting commercial sponsorship.

“It’s shifting,” she said. “But you know, it could always be better.”

There are still stereotypes that women are not as strong as men.

 “I think mentally we can handle a lot more than some of the guys around.”

Landi, whose maiden name was Cecile Canqueteau, was a gymnast who represented France in the World Championships in 1994 and 1995, as well as the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. She left elite gymnastics in 1999 but continued to compete for her club until 2002. She then coached in France for four years before moving to the United States in 2004. She and her husband Laurent began coaching Biles in October 2017.

Landi says that as a female coach, she understands the pressures that young women face, such as diet and changing bodies. Puberty benefits male gymnasts by making them stronger, but it can make life difficult for female gymnasts.

“And that is something that I had to go through, and I had to deal with, and it was not easy,” she said. “I think that’s why the girls can really relate to me a little bit more – that’s the female brain, the understanding.”

Athletes and protecting their mental health
Mental health perceptions have also evolved dramatically over time. According to Landi, mental health was not given much attention in the 1990s, but things have changed since then.
“Mental health was not real in the nineties for me. [If there was a problem] they would say to us things like: ‘you are lazy, you just don’t want to do it,’ or things like that,” she said.

Landi attributes her understanding of how negative comments can have a strong impact on children to her French education. The recent cases of abuse have highlighted the critical importance of protecting athletes and their mental health.

“That’s when we saw that it did affect them [the gymnasts] way more than we ever thought,” she says. “Mental health became more and more important.”

It was also another reminder of the very real dangers that athletes, particularly women, face. The IOC's gender equality goals for 2021-2024 place a renewed emphasis on athlete safety. The IOC wants to make sure that athlete safety is considered at every stage of the Olympic Games.

“Talking with the girls [in my team], I think I just want to let them know that they can tell me anything,” says Landi, who says she watches the gymnasts’ body language a lot to understand how they are feeling, and talks with them if something looks off. “I don’t judge them,” she says. “[I tell them] if you need any help, I’ll go with you.”