Ageism and discrimination in sports

26 February 2021

Dr Rebecca Olive from UQ's School of Human Movement and Nutrition Science spoke to ABC News about ageist stereotypes and discrimination in sports.

Brisbane's Julie Brims has broken sprinting world records but the mother of two says clearing ageism hurdles has been the biggest challenge.

In January this year, a couple of weeks after her 55th birthday, the runner broke the 100-metre, 200-metre and 400-metre world records for sprinting at local competitions.

And just last week Brims smashed the world record she had set the previous month, while competing in the 100 metre sprint in Canberra.

Brims started running at 36, when her daughters started competing in athletics.

"I started joining in just doing the odd 100 metres while they were competing on the night," the former basketball player said.

"Then I just grew more and more towards sprinting where it was just so much fun doing an individual event where you didn't have to rely on another person refereeing with you or anything that goes on the basketball court.

"It was just all you and I really enjoyed that part of it."

Brims was soon entered in a track classic meet, and she won.

"I went there and I won that race and it just felt so good to be able to win such a race at that standard," she said.

But finding a coach did not come as easily.

"A lot of coaches would see me run from a distance and then when they would approach me they'd say 'I'd really like to coach you' and I'd think that was tremendous and I was so excited," Brims said.

"Then after a while they would say 'excuse me, but how old are you anyway?' because they never knew my age.

"I would tell them and they'd say, 'you're too old, I'm not going anywhere with you with this. Maybe you'd be better off going back to what you do on your own'."

"A lot of the time I'd be really disappointed because I was really keen to improve because I knew that if I could get coached properly, I could be better."

Dr Rebecca Olive from University of Queensland's School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences said Brim's experience was not surprising.

"Discrimination against women in sport is an absolute fact," Dr Olive said.

"Discrimination against people who are aging in sport, is an absolute fact.

"Another thing that happens with women: there is an assumption that after childbirth or after menopause women's bodies are less sort of virile or they're damaged somehow.

"What I think is is interesting is how [Julie] was dismissed despite them seeing her do well.

"They saw her running really fast and it was when they saw her age [they lost interest].

"That is ageism and definitely discrimination, right there."

Read the full ABC News article