International Women’s Day: the rise of female Olympic cyclists

From total absence to gender parity

In 140 days, the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will get under way with exactly 257 women and 257 men competing across the five cycling disciplines on the programme. On International Women’s Day today, we celebrate this total gender parity, which is a far cry from cycling’s beginnings at the Olympic Games.

Cycling has been on the programme of the Olympics since the first edition of the modern era of the Games, in Athens 1896. Road and track were on the competition programme of these Greek Games, but for men only. It was not until 88 years later (Los Angeles 1984) that women broke into the Olympic cycling scene with the staging of a women’s road race: American Connie Carpenter delighted the crowds with her home victory. Four years later, in Seoul (South Korea), women also got to race on the track, albeit in just one event, the individual sprint.

After this somewhat laborious start for cycling’s female Olympians, things accelerated with the introduction of cycling’s latest three disciplines to the Olympic programme: women and men competed from the first Olympic appearances for mountain bike (Atlanta 1996); BMX Racing (Beijing 2008) and BMX Freestyle (Tokyo 2020).

And finally, in 2024, the same number of women and men will compete in road, track, mountain bike, BMX Racing and BMX Freestyle.

A celebration for cycling’s female Olympians.

Photo: Rebecca Lynne Twigg and Connie Carpenter (silver medallist and Olympic Champion respectively at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games)