Radcliffe: Track and field leading race for equality

Paula Radcliffe (File)
Paula Radcliffe (File)

London - Athletics may be submerged in doping scandals, but Paula Radcliffe believes it deserves credit for its promotion of equal pay for men and women even if she was once fobbed off with a table lamp for winning a race.

The thorny topic of gender equality in sport came to the fore this week when Raymond Moore, director of the joint men's and women's tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, said female players should "get down on (their) knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born".

Moore's remarks implied that women's tennis was not a drawcard with spectators and the ensuing furore led to his resignation.

But that was not the end of the matter, with world number one Novak Djokovic suggesting he and his colleagues should receive more money than their female counterparts because they had more spectators watching their matches.

Djokovic pulled back from his comments but Radcliffe, a former world marathon champion and still the world record-holder in the event, said the debate had raised some important questions.

"Some other sports have to do a little bit of catching up and the media has a role to play in that as well," said Radcliffe on Friday.

However, she added that athletics had not always taken such a progressive attitude.

"On one occasion when I was 16 I did a road race and won," Radcliffe recalled. "The athlete who won the men's race won a TV -- and I won a table lamp!

"But now it's parity across the board in all IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) and road race events.

"Yes, some fighting had to be done to get women to take part in marathon events. But now we have parity in our sport, we're very lucky."

Along with the tennis controversy in California, this week also saw Britain's Tour of Yorkshire event announce the biggest prize fund ever offered for a women's cycling race.

By tennis standards, the sums are modest with a total prize fund of 50,000 ($71,000) where 15,000 is on offer to the winner.

But the cheque for finishing first still amounts to more than three times the sum collected by world champion Lizzie Armitstead when she took the global title in Richmond, Virginia last year.

And success for the women cyclists in the Tour of Yorkshire could see them earn more than riders taking part in the equivalent men's event.

"We're trying to seismically change the sport," said Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome To Yorkshire. "It is the most lucrative women's bike race on the planet.

"If you won all three stages of the men's race, and you took the general classification money as well, you would still be 40 percent worse off than the winner of the women's race. So that's a big difference."

Armitstead missed last year's inaugural edition of the Tour of Yorkshire.

But with the increased prize fund and the fact that the April 30 event, a 135 km ride, starts in her home town of Otley, she admitted: "They didn't really give me much chance not to turn up did they?"

Nevertheless Armitstead warned against focusing solely on cash, saying being allowed to ride classic routes was more important to her.

"There's so many things we need before we have equal prize money," she said.

"I don't want races to be put off inviting me to race because they don't have 15,000 if I win it.

"I'd rather have the opportunity to race up the Cauberg (finish of the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands, which has not had a women's edition since 2003).

"That's what I would like and I think those steps should be first in women's cycling."

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