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Olympic legend calls for greater gender equality in sport
BUENOS AIRES, Oct. 5 -- American Olympic swimming legend Donna de Varona, 71, has called for greater gender equality in sport, saying that discrimination still exists despite greater awareness of women's rights.
De Varona, who had won the first of her three gold medals as a 13-year-old at the Rome 1960 Games, told the official Youth Olympics website that men still dominate the most important roles within international federations and the media.
"We have to refer to women in a different way, elevate them when we're covering men's sport and put more women on prime-time television," De Varona said.
"We need more women announcers and more women in executive positions," she added.
De Varona is currently in Buenos Aries, where she is working with trainees in the International Olympic Committee's young reporters program. The initiative coincides with the Youth Summer Olympics, which begin in the Argentine capital on Saturday.
De Varona said she had suffered prejudice all her life, having quit swimming as a teenager to earn a living as TV commentator.
"I thought that if I become a journalist then some day I can talk about how unfair it is - male athletes getting more than women. I am going to try to make a difference," said De Varona.
She said that many of her male colleagues resented her being in the press room despite her Olympic achievements and tireless work ethic.
"I had to hustle harder and faster than anybody else. I would have to work at Thanksgiving, Christmas and every holiday because in order to gain respect from my producers and co-workers I had to pay my dues," she said. "I would have to carry coffee, get up early in the morning, do anything I possibly could to get respect. And in some ways I never did."
Despite recognizing that there have been improvements in recent years, De Varona said that gender inequality still exists in sport.
According to IOC figures from 2015, only 14 percent of IOC-recognised international federations' executive board members were women. On the final day of competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, there were 19 men's gold medal events and only two for women.
"We have an old tradition where the people who've been involved with making these decisions have been making these decisions since I was 18, 19, 20 and 30," De Varona said. They are still involved. So in order to really get there, to open up their minds, you need the facts and hopefully these facts can open up their minds so that in 2020 [Tokyo Olympic Games] we don't have only two finals on the last day, we have an equal number."