Adeline Gray is a first-time gold medalist in wrestling who has made it to Rio Olympics 2016 but Gray wants people to respect and acknowledge her as a wrestler and not just another pretty girl making it to the top.
In an interview with ESPN, ahead of the their latest Body Issue in which she has been featured, Gray says, “I absolutely hate the statement ‘You’re too pretty to wrestle.’ I think people used to view female athletes as very butch, masculine – you kind of had to disregard your femininity to excel at an elite sport. Now it’s just a different world.”
She emphasises on how times have changed and now, a woman wrestler does not necessarily need to lose her feminine appearance to compete in the industry. “With heavyweight wrestling, people are expecting this Helga type of woman, obese and going out there on the mat to try to smash people’s heads. It’s so much more than that — the weight is really low, so it’s about technique. It’s skill, strength, power and executing that in a very precise way,” she is quoted as saying.
Gray wants to set an example for young girls who have preconceived notions about women wrestlers. Her message for them is, “I tell them you can have the best of both worlds. You are allowed to be a female and be considered beautiful and still be an athlete and still be badass in that realm.”
In the evocative interview, she also highlights the general mindset of people towards women’s wrestling which they tend to treat as a sport from another planet. She is shocked because she still gets that “sideways tilt of the head” by people who ask “Women wrestle?”. “It’s almost disheartening, because I work very hard and it’s a very competitive field internationally, and people in our country just don’t really know about it.”
Highlighting the issue of lack of opportunities for women wrestlers, she says “Boys really have a leg up on us because they have these professional leagues that they can dream about. So if I can be like Serena Williams or like some of these main stars out there who are being iconic and groundbreaking and are role models for this next generation, it would be an honor and a blessing.”