Today is International Women’s Day.
We’ve been thrilled to see more and more women getting involved with sport and physical activity in recent years, making fantastic achievements and refusing to let outdated stereotypes hold them back.
Two such women are Jessica Fullagar and Joanna Neame who were both kind enough to answer a few questions and share some of their own experience and advice with us on the lead up to International Women’s Day.
Jessica is a 3rd year International Business student at Leeds and triathlete who is both a coaching scholar and a sport scholar. She has won 3rd place at the World Championships in Switzerland as well as winning an Elite European Cup in Sweden in 2019. It is her goal to work in media/broadcasting for sport or to work in a sport’s national governing body.
Joanna is currently doing Languages, Cultures and Film Studies with German at Leeds and is a member of the GB Climbing team.
How did you get into your sport?
“From a very young age, I was an outdoor enthusiast. I always had lots of energy, so my parents got me involved in many different activities such as singing, theatre classes, tennis and skiing. I was lucky to grow up in Annecy (France), which spoilt me with outdoor activities on the lake or up in the mountains. However, it was definitely running and cycling that I gravitated towards the most. I am very close with my mum and from a young age I always wanted to go out running or riding with her. She signed me up to a local triathlon initiation during the summer of 2011, and although I wasn’t initially as keen on swimming, I had a fantastic time. We found a local triathlon team I could join and from then on, I was hooked. The team had a great community and from the very beginning all of the sessions were made for us to have fun. It’s safe to say I never looked back!”
“When I was 9 years old I got invited to a friend’s birthday party held at the local climbing wall. I’ve always been naturally competitive and I think partly because I was the only girl at the party I wanted to be the best there and somehow show the boys up! I really enjoyed the session and decided to join the kids’ climbing club at the centre. With all my other hobbies I’ve drifted away from them as soon as I stopped enjoying myself, but with climbing, I feel like I’ve retained the excitement I had for the sport the first time I tried it.”
What motivates you?
“I have big goals which are constantly in the back of my mind, like competing at the Olympics. On days where I don’t feel that psyched, the thought of stepping on to the stage at the most prestigious sports event in the world is always enough to get me going. I’d say the backbone of my motivation is really my love for climbing though. The flow state I find when a session goes well is just the best feeling and something I strive for every time I train.”
“Deep down, I’m a very competitive person and from the start, I’ve always wanted to be the best athlete I could be. I yearned to consistently be on the top step of the podium. Working hard and giving my best during a race always leaves me with a huge sense of satisfaction and pride.
Aside from my inner competitor, as I’m very fond the triathlon community and I’ve always looked up many triathletes in admiration, I have a strong drive to work hard to be able to race amongst the best in the sport and be part of that very special community. When I get to race next to athletes that used to be on posters on my bedroom wall, I think it’s pretty amazing!
I think racing and training well is also a way for me to thank the people around me who support what I do every day. I try my best to perform well and be consistent during training because I know it’s down to everyone who helps me daily, that I’ve managed to achieve some of my best results.”
Any advice for other young women looking to go into sport?
“Go for it!! Don’t be scared to try different activities and see what you enjoy! Ultimately, I think sport is a fantastic way to connect to a great community, make friends and enjoy being active.
Go gently with your body as it enables you to do so many fantastic things, and ultimately, enjoy it!! No matter how far you go in your sport, have fun and make lots of fabulous memories!”
“Go into things with an open mind and don’t expect to fall in love with a sport straight away, but at the same time, if you persist with something and aren’t enjoying it try and reflect on what you don’t like about that sport and what kind of activity might be better suited to you. If you are surrounded by athletes who are far better than you, try and use them as inspiration rather than feeling intimidated and don’t allow other people to dictate whether or not you stick with a sport. Remember, sport should be fun, so you should be the one dictating whether you continue with an activity or look for something new.”