Well, equal at least for the female riders who competed in this year’s Tour Down Under event in South Australia, with the race receiving a significant nudge from the state government to promote gender equality.
The South Australian Government will contribute $90,000 to organisers of the TDU, topping up the existing prize pool of just $15,000, to ensure the women receive the same $100,000+ winnings as the men.
It’s especially great news for Australian Amanda Spratt, who took out this year’s TDU.
Wow, not that I needed any more reasons to love Tour Down Under. What a huge step forward for equality 👏🏻👏🏻 https://t.co/gK88JhBNFt
— AmandaSpratt (@AmandaSpratt) January 20, 2018
South Australian Sport Minister Leon Bignell, who led the move, has labelled it a “world-first pay increase”.
And it’s nice to see Australia leading at something when it comes to gender equality, for the first time in a long time.
It may only be one race, in one sport, but the broader message it sends is significant: we value the contribution of women as much as we value the contribution of men. And we recognise women have to fight and train just as hard in order to get to the top of their game.
The additional $90,000 means competitors will receive the same amount as the men during all stages of the event, which amounts to $6120 for a win and $18,359 for the overall winner.
Bignell announced the move at the Santos Tour Down Under Legends Dinner over the weekend, saying he had written to the president of the Union Cyclist Internationale regarding the increase.
Prize money for 2.1 UCI sanctioned #TDU Women’s race is now equal to men’s! I applaud the #seesouthaustralia Government commitment to support women cycling and thrilled to see that UCI’s first World Tour event leads the way for equal prize money! Lots to learn from this action. pic.twitter.com/c5JMNFKSJA
— David Lappartient (@DLappartient) January 21, 2018
According to Adelaide Now, he told the dinner that, “These athletes are at the top of the game, displaying professionalism, determination and skill during every stage of the hard-fought race.”
The ABC reported his comments that women are putting just as much into the sport as men: “When they go out they train just as hard as the men,” he said. “When they break bones it hurts just as much as the men.”
He added that he believes the increase can help push a transformation for women in cycling.
The Tour Down Under also recently replaced “podium girls” with junior cyclists, making it the first major international race to do so. That 2016 move was also backed by Bignell, who at the time said it was about sending a consistent message on body image.
“The Government’s paying for grid girls at the same time we’re putting money into mental health areas to help young women who have body image problems,” he said. “What we actually want to do is inspire girls and young women who come to the motor racing to be car drivers or to be mechanics or to be engineers.”
The pay increase is excellent news following a year in which female athletes were finally given the prominence and attention they deserve, and advertisers, sponsors and the media realised the potential in women’s sport.
Other sports still have a long way to go, with many female athletes in Australia still struggling to support themselves despite being recognised on the national and even international stages. But I’m confident we will see more announcements like this in 2018.
Well done Australia.