Sam Quek is a member of the British women’s hockey team that won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Here, she talks about the challenges women face in the media’s depiction of female athletes inside and outside the stadium.
My partner collected all the newspapers we had during Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics. When it comes to every point of the hockey girl, he will cut it off. Before the finals, a paper was bio-produced for each player: name, age, occupation.
People have “nutrition doctors”, “full-time doctoral students” or “training to become lawyers”. I got my, it is ‘Sam Quek: swimsuit model’. Then it has the background of my other half, who owns a real estate company.
I think it’s a picture of my uneducated – just like I’m a little no one. “She is a swimsuit model, so let’s talk about her other half.”
I did a photo about celebrating the female body before the Olympics. I think it’s great: it outlines the elegant, sporty box – but it’s also fascinating.
But when you search for my name, this is the first suitable photo. I am not a swimsuit model, but have you seen a photo and decided to stick to it?
Why don’t I have a degree? Or did I get my first international hockey hat when I was 18? Even if I missed the Olympics in Beijing and London, and competed for gold in Rio Tinto?
“Sweating in our eyes, spit on our faces”
The dropout rate of young girls in sports is enormous, especially around the age of 15. There used to be a concept – I think it still exists – you either exercise or you are not. I always try to make you both.
Before the GB hockey girls take the bus to our game, we will take the time to prepare. We have finished the hair. We make up because, yes, we want to look good. We represent ourselves and our team, as well as each other. But once we cross that line, our eyes will sweat, spit on our faces, and win at all costs.
Women do not have to be labeled as “sports”. Or “glamorous.” You can be both, and it is important for young people to realize this.
‘In order to succeed, must I remove my toolkit? No’
I am very clear that I don’t want to be sexualized. When I was looking for an agent, I immediately started telling me about underwear transactions. I think, ‘You don’t know’.
Do you have to close your kit to become a female athlete? No.
You won’t see me doing underwear shooting. I am very cautious. It may be that women do feel pressure to do the types of shots that can be seen and heard, but you won’t see male athletes doing this often.
As a female athlete, we are used to the fact that you will not come out and oppose it because of fear of being judged. If we do this, it will pay more attention than male athletes.