Media releases

  • Framing Tokyo 2020 as gender-equal misleading, says Brock researcher

    MEDIA RELEASE: 5 August 2021 – R0084

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) continues to promote Tokyo 2020 as the most gender-equal Games ever. But Brock University Sport Management Assistant Professor Michele Donnelly says more needs to be done as “most changes the IOC has introduced are relatively superficial and performative.”

    Some positive steps the IOC has championed for the Games include encouraging each country to select both a male and female flag bearer and each nation sending at least one male and one female athlete as part of its delegation.

    “The important thing to emphasize when the IOC says this is the first gender-balanced Games is they are speaking exclusively in terms of numbers,” Donnelly says. “They are strictly basing those statements on women athletes making up 48.8 per cent of the Games and ignoring a more substantive understanding of equality.”

    One of the big headlines during Tokyo 2020 has been the difference in requirements for men’s and women’s uniforms across various sports. Much of the dialogue is focused on how men often compete in shorts and looser clothing compared to women in bikinis or tight-fitting outfits.

    “We need to expand the uniform regulations for women’s sport to include options,” says Donnelly. “Requiring women to wear revealing, tight-fitting uniforms is reflective of outdated beliefs that no one would watch women’s sport unless there was something else to watch.”

    Female athletes are pushing back more than ever against unequal standards for uniforms they say are more revealing, sexualized and divert focus from their athletic ability.

    “If women athletes are saying ‘my uniform is making me feel uncomfortable and distracted when I want to be focused on performance,’ they should be allowed to have more options,” Donnelly says, adding that the problem starts at the top, with a lack of women in top-level decision-making positions at the IOC and international sport federations.

    Arguments resisting changes to women’s uniforms range from claims that judges need to see arms and legs to do their jobs, sand can be difficult to get out of one-piece bathing suits, performance can be inhibited or improved making the competition unequal, and more.

    “If the men are wearing relatively loose-fitting board shorts and tank tops, why is there is no equivalent option for women?” says Donnelly. “Officials continually resist change based on how it may interfere with women’s performance when men are competing just fine. It reinforces discriminatory ideas about how women should look, including when they play sport.”

    An example of both gender and racial disparity at the Tokyo Games was the rejection of the use of the British-made Soul Cap, an extra-large silicone covering designed specifically to protect dreadlocks, weaves, hair extensions, braids and thick and curly hair.

    In their decision, Fédération Internationale De Natation (FINA), which oversees international competitions in swimming, cited ‘no previous instance in which swimmers needed caps of such size and configuration.’ It also ‘wondered if the cap could create an advantage by disrupting the flow of water.’

    “The rejection of the soul cap is yet another way racialized athletes, and particularly women, are being controlled by dominant ideologies,” says Donnelly, who says the argument reminds her of when women were excluded from the elite sport competitions for wearing hijabs and men were asked to remove their turbans or yarmulkes.

    “Now, we see Muslim women competing in athletics, beach volleyball and other sports wearing more modest uniforms with full sleeves and pant legs, as well as sport hijabs,” she says.

    Donnelly is concerned that without change, younger athletes looking ahead and realizing the types of uniforms they may be expected to wear could be enough of a deterrent that they decide it’s not worth it to continue.

    “We have no idea how many young women and even men we are losing because of significant inequalities in many of the events on the Olympic programme including uniforms, rules, equipment, race distances and more.”

    Brock University Sport Management Assistant Professor Michele Donnelly is available for media interviews on the topic.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University or 905-347-1970

    – 30 –

    Categories: Media releases

  • Child participants needed for Brock muscle research

    MEDIA RELEASE: 3 August 2021 – R0083

    On the surface, differences between adults and children may seem obvious. Adults are bigger, stronger and faster than children, presumably because adults have had more time for their muscles to grow and develop.

    But is time the only factor that accounts for differences between adults’ and children’s muscles? Are there areas in which children may have a competitive advantage over adults?

    PhD student Stacey Woods is determined to find out. She is looking for boys between the ages of seven and 12 to perform a variety of physical activities in her team’s laboratory at Brock University.

    Woods is examining factors that contribute to muscle activation during different types of actions and in different muscles. She will examine muscle contractions in which muscles are shortened or become tense, and muscle fatigue, which is the decline in the muscle’s power capacity.

    “We’re asking the research participants to do high-intensity and low-intensity exercise and endurance-type tasks,” she says. “We’re using some new technology called surface electromyography decomposition, or surface dEMG, to assess their muscle actions.”

    Data Woods collects from participants’ exercises will ultimately compare muscle activation between children and adults.

    Woods’ research began last year, but COVID-19 restrictions stalled the in-person portion of the research. With Brock now in the third stage of its reopening, “we’re following very strict procedures for the safety of the participants and the safety of researchers,” says Woods. “We’re trying to make it work while being very accommodating.”

    Those interested in participating in the study should contact Woods at or call the lab at 905-688-5550 x5623.

    The study is part of work underway by a larger Brock research team that is examining the effect of exercise and physical training on bone health and on neuromuscular function during growth and maturation.

    Heading the team are pediatric exercise physiologists Bareket Falk and Nota Klentrou, whose current work focuses on the effect of growth, maturation and physical activity on muscle function and on bone development.

    “Children’s muscles don’t function the same way as adults’ muscles,” says Falk, a Professor of Kinesiology. “They have their unique particularities and respond to exercise differently.”

    With her study, Woods is aiming to test the team’s theory that children use less of their ‘fast-twitch’ muscles than adults do.

    Fast-twitch, or Type 2, muscles, are used in movements that require quick, short energy bursts like what are needed for powerlifting or sprinting.

    In contrast, ‘slow-twitch,’ or Type 1, muscles support sustained movements and hold postures. They have much more of an oxygen supply than Type 2 muscles.

    “We’re hypothesizing that during all these different tasks that participants will undertake, we’ll see a difference in performance, which is due to this lesser activation of these faster, Type 2 muscles,” says Woods.

    But, the flip side is that children’s Type 1 muscles enable them to sustain movements for a long time, perhaps even more than adults.

    “The interesting thing is, if you make exercise relative, kids can produce the same amount of force for a longer period of time —­ they’re more resistant to fatigue,” says master’s student James Maynard.

    Maynard is finishing his thesis on his study comparing muscle use in children and adults. He says his team believes that children use about 85 per cent of their muscle fibres compared to around 95 per cent that adults use.

    Maynard, Woods and Falk say their team’s insights into children’s muscle use could inform rehabilitation and exercise training programs for children.

    “When we prescribe activity to children, it shouldn’t be based on what we know is good for adults,” says Falk, who received Brock University’s 2021 Award for Distinguished Research and Creative Activity for her work.

    “We’ve been applying adult guidelines to children’s exercise where this doesn’t always lead us to good results,” she says.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases