— Published 21 December 2021

FrancsJeux awards: Seiko Hashimoto and Brigitte Henriques, women of the year (2)

Parity in the Olympic movement is still some time away. But 2021 could well be remembered as the year of the women. Twelve months in which women leaders have gained ground and sometimes even managed to seize several strongholds that were previously beyond their reach.

The examples are numerous. At the IOC, Nicole Hoevertsz was elected Vice-President, a position she shares on the Executive Board with Australian John Coates, Singaporean Ng Ser Miang and Chinese Zaiqing Yu. Former Finnish cross-country skier Emma Terho continued the female line as Chair of the Athletes’ Commission, succeeding Kirsty Coventry, who had already replaced German Claudia Bokel.

Petra Sörling from Sweden won the race for the presidency of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) unopposed at the end of the year. She is the first woman to lead the body since its creation. She joins Spain’s Marisol Casado (World Triathlon) and another Swede, Annika Sörenstam (International Golf Federation), in the still very narrow circle of women presidents of an international federation of a summer Olympic sport.

At the national level, three women have made history in their Olympic movement. Brigitte Henriques (pictured above) led the way last June by becoming the first woman to chair the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF). In Mexico, María José Alcalá achieved the same feat. Finally, the Israeli Yael Arad opened a breach by becoming the first president of the National Olympic Committee, after having been the first Olympic medalist of the State of Israel.

At the end of such a year, there was a wide choice for the Woman of the Year in the Olympic movement. The nineteen members of the FrancsJeux jury chose two. France’s Brigitte Henriques and Japan’s Seiko Hashimoto (pictured below) tied for the award, each receiving 42% of the votes. A perfect tie, a perfectly deserved double trophy.

In their own very different ways, the former French football player and the former Japanese speed skater and track cyclist have made history. Brigitte Henriques, 50, won the election for the presidency of the CNOSF on 29 June. Vice-president of the body since 2017, but also vice-president of the French Football Federation (FFF), she beat off the competition in the first round of voting. With 57.87% of the votes (577 out of 1018), she beat the former judoka Thierry Rey (19.26%), Emmanuelle Bonnet-Oulaldj (16.05%), and Patrice Martin (6.82%).

Seiko Hashimoto had a year 2021 full of surprises. Until February, she was a member of the Japanese government as Minister for the Olympic Games. But the sexist remarks of the president of the Tokyo Games organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, turned her career around. The former Prime Minister was ruthlessly dismissed and Seiko Hashimoto was offered the presidential post. With less than six months to go before the event, and with the Games far from being secured, she accepted the challenge. A bold move.

Elected for a four-year term, Brigitte Henriques will lead the French Olympic movement at least until the Paris Games in 2024. Her presence at the head of the CNOSF has been historic from day one and will remain so throughout an Olympiad that could transform French sport forever.

Seiko Hashimoto’s fate seems more uncertain. But the multiple Olympian has already announced her next challenge: Sapporo’s bid for the Winter Games in 2030. She could see herself as the president of the organising committee if Japan wins. Another way to make history.