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Stop Framing Female Olympic Athlete Accomplishments Through Their Husbands

The Olympics. The pageantry, the athleticism and… the sexism. Take Katinka Hosszú, for example. She recently won the 400m medley and shattered a World Record in the process. Unfortunately, as soon as she finished the race, NBC panned away to her husband – who also serves as Hosszú’s coach and said, “There’s the guy responsible for turning Katinka Hosszú, his wife, into a whole different swimmer.”

Nice!

So here’s a little background about Hosszú, a Hungarian swimmer who was a medal contender in the 2012 London Olympics, but suffered devastating losses there. After the letdown of London, she asked her then-boyfriend, Shane Tusup, to be her coach and started an intense training regimen: more weight lifting, more competitions, and less time spent practicing in the pool.

Shane Tusup, a former swimmer himself, isn’t a favorite in the swimming community. He is known for his abusive coaching tactics, aggressive poolside manner, and being an all-around dick. According to other swimmers, he once told Hosszú after a race that she should stay in the pool and drown. A real stand-up guy. Although abusive coach-athlete relationships aren’t uncommon, it is even more intense when it’s wrapped up in the dynamic of husband and wife.

Hosszú has nothing but good things to say about her husband and has defended him in the press. But abuse victims are known to stand by their abusers with misplaced loyalty or out of abject fear. Because of the general acceptance of abusive behavior from coaches to “push” their athletes, Tusup’s treatment of Hosszú lies in a murky, uncomfortable grey area.

Okay, so back to NBC’s coverage. Hosszú’s husband-coach was indeed part of her success. But he sure as hell wasn’t in the pool swimming in her place – HE didn’t break the world record. It’s dangerous for NBC to insinuate that she owes her success to her coach – it was still her who ultimately smashed the record. She doesn’t need him to do well in the pool, she had it inside herself all along.

But that’s not all, in a Chicago Tribune article, Corey Cogdell-Unrein – a two-time trap shooting bronze medalist – is pushed aside to focus on her husband who plays for the Chicago Bears, Mitch Unrein. Don’t worry, they will tell you all about it. Even their headline is cringeworthy: “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio.”

At first, the article seems to fairly cover Corey Cogdell-Unrein’s accomplishments but it becomes clear later who the article is really about:

“This is Cogdell-Unrein’s third Olympic games, but Unrein, a defensive end in his second season with the Bears, was unable to get away from training camp to join her in Rio and see her in the Olympics for the first time.

The Bears open their preseason schedule Thursday against the Broncos at Soldier Field.”

YOU DON’T SAY?

In the scheme of all that is wrong with the world, it may not seem like the media casually glazing over female accomplishments to focus on the men behind-the-scenes is a problem. But it’s insidious instances like these that show women are still framed through the perspective of wife or another female role before “athlete”. Women are held to completely different standards and it’s intensified by a spectacle like the Olympics. Olympic sportscasters are twice as likely to comment on a female athlete’s appearance than a male athlete’s, for example.

Here’s a video by ATTN: that sums up what female athletes are dealing with:

Michelle Wilson

Michelle Wilson

Feminist made from equal parts internet cats and soy lattes. Preferred habitat: on a bike. Follow her on Instagram for unnecessary selfies and nonsensical hashtags: m.e.wilson

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