Games winners inspire women to take up sport

Legacy hopes borne out by poll

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The Independent Online

More than four in 10 young women have been inspired to become more active by the Olympic success of Team GB.

The exploits of athletes such as Jessica Ennis, Nicola Adams, Kath Grainger and Laura Trott during the Games have ignited the desire and determination of women of all ages to take up sport, according to a nationwide poll.

The results boost hopes that London 2012 would spark a lasting legacy and come as sports clubs up and down the country are opening their doors to new recruits. Tens of thousands of people have sampled different sports over the Join In weekend continuing today.

Val Rocha, 22, from Brixton, south London, decided to start boxing 10 days ago, after watching Nicola Adams take gold. She tried the sport at Miguel's Gym for the first time last Wednesday and has already been back three times.

"Seeing women that proficient inspires you to try new things that are not necessarily advertised to women. I had always wanted to try it I just never got around to it," she said.

Martha Lawton, 33, from north London, said watching the Games had inspired her to go back to swimming, a sport she loved as a child. "I really got into the Olympics, even though I have never really been interested in sport.

"I haven't done much sport since leaving school. It had been in the back of my mind to start swimming again, but I have got back in the pool as a direct result of the Olympics.

"I plan to keep it up as I do really enjoy it and I can fit it into my life. Once I got back in the water, I realised that the swimming technique I had when I was younger was still there, and I remembered how much I used to enjoy it."

Swimming silver medallist Sharron Davies, travelling on a Join In battle bus yesterday with gold-winning decathlete Daley Thompson, said: "The Olympics have shown sport is for everyone; women got the first and last medals of the Games.

"It gives really good role models. You're not talking about a Wag who wants to get money quickly, but about somebody working hard to achieve something and earn respect."

A poll for the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) found that among women aged between 16 and 34, 41 per cent agreed that the Games have inspired them to become more active. Overall the Ipsos Mori poll found that 30 per cent of all women felt the Olympics had prompted them to do more exercise.

Sue Tibballs, the chief executive of WSFF, said: "These past two weeks have been the perfect boost for women's sport and could be seen as the moment where the profile of women's sport changed for ever.

"Having female athletes such as Jessica Ennis, Nicola Adams, Kath Grainger and Laura Trott as role models is fantastic. But it is essential that we do not let the legacy of 2012 fade away. This is the first evidence that the Olympics can result in a boost to participation rates among women."

The results will be welcomed by the Games organisers who adopted "Inspire a generation" as their motto, against a background of falling numbers of women taking up sport. Over the past four years, the number playing sport between the ages of 16 and 24 declined by around 5 per cent, according to figures from Sport England. Half as many girl school leavers take part in the recommended levels of physical activity as boys, a trend which continues into adulthood.

Additional reporting by Rachel Roberts