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Sabatini returns the favour
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 16 - 03 - 2006

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has awarded its 2006 world Women and Sport Trophy to Argentine tennis player Gabriela Sabatini at an official ceremony held at the headquarters of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva
While Gabriela Sabatini's many victories need no introduction -- 27 singles and 12 doubles titles, plus a silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games -- her work to promote and develop tennis in her country, among youngsters and particularly girls, has not often made the headlines.
After retiring from an active sports career in 1996, Sabatini, three times world number three, devoted the same strength and energy to her support work, with a view, in her words, to "giving back to sport something of the many things that sport gave to me". She is behind a programme for young players run by the national tennis federation for which she has provided all the funding. She also finances women's tennis tournaments and free tennis clinics for young children -- all out of the public eye.
As well as the world trophy, five continental trophies were presented to women who played an outstanding role in promoting sport in their countries:
Albertine Gonçalves (Senegal, Africa)
Albertine Gonçalves, a militant figure from Senegalese sport and a traditional cycling family (three of her brothers have been national champions), is the winner of the trophy for Africa. She became in 1983 the first African female president of a sports federation (cycling) and the same year a member of the International Amateur Cycling Federation (FIAC) executive committee. Today, she is still the only female president of a Senegalese sports federation (gymnastics), a post she has held since 1988. Thanks to her determination, Gonçalves managed to persuade the Senegalese NOC, of which she is assistant general treasurer, to reserve at least two seats on the NOC executive committee for women. She is today one of the main leaders of the NOC's Women and Sport Commission. On the media side, Gonçalves played an active role in the creation of the Senegalese Association of Female Reporters.
Charmaine Crooks (Canada, America)
Charmaine Crooks, winner of the trophy for America, represented her country, Canada, for almost 20 years on the athletics track. After five Olympic Games, a silver medal won in Los Angeles in 1984, she was elected in 1996 as a member of the IOC Athletes' Commission and then served as an IOC member until 2004. An active member of the IOC Press Commission, World Olympians Association, Canadian NOC, and Vancouver Organising Committee for the XXI Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2010, Crooks also holds other important positions within sports organisations at international, regional and national levels. With her passion for sport and keen advocacy for athletes, young people, women in sport and the values of Olympism, Crooks has featured regularly on television for more than 10 years.
Elisa Lee (Korea, Asia)
The winner for Asia, Elisa Lee, has distinguished herself in her country, Korea, as an athlete, then a coach and now a sports leader. At the age of 10, the girl who would later be nicknamed "the Ping Pong Queen," saw her life changed for ever after discovering a 2.7-gramme table tennis ball, which immediately captivated her. During 35 years, Elisa Lee and these balls won numerous medals. Elisa Lee continued her sports career as coach of the women's Olympic team for the Games from 1984 to 2004, adding a gold medal in 1988, then silver and a bronze in 2004 to her collection. She was also involved in setting up the Korean Women's Sports Association (WSA) in 1981. Armed with a PhD, in 2002 she began a sports administration career as director of the Korean Physical Education Association for Girls and Women. No longer wishing to limit herself to training women and table tennis, in March 2005 Elisa Lee took full charge of Korean high-performance sport, becoming the first female chief of the NOC's Athletes Training Centre since its creation in 1966.
Dominique Petit (France, Europe)
For Europe, the winner is Dominique Petit, the first female technical director of a French national federation of an Olympic sport: volleyball. Organiser of the European Women and Sport Conference in 2004 as part of the European Women and Sport (EWAS) network, Petit was behind the creation of the mixed "Women and Sport" group within the French NOC. A guiding principle in the career and work of Petit has always been the importance of training and supervision, for both technical and managerial aspects. While national technical director for volleyball, she greatly developed the training for the female coaches who are today working at the highest level. Petit currently runs the "Making the most of human resources" section of the NOC -- the only female director -- and is constantly involved in awareness-raising and training initiatives throughout France.
Lorraine Mar (Fiji, Oceania)
Lorraine Mar, the winner for Oceania, is a role model in developing the participation of girls and women in badminton, both nationally and regionally. After a sports career spanning more than 10 years in badminton and tennis, during which she was voted Fiji Sportswoman of the Year in 1984, Mar joined the Fiji Badminton Association in 1995 as treasurer and secretary. She has also been office manager of the NOC since 1998. Thanks to her enthusiasm, dedication and determination, women's badminton has developed strongly in terms of participation, and some of the under-19 players discovered by Mar are now in the national elite squad. She also ensures that a coach from the Oceania Badminton Association is regularly available to run training programmes for women and girls.
The 2006 winners were selected by the IOC Women and Sport Commission, chaired by IOC member Anita DeFrantz, from dozens of candidatures submitted by national Olympic committees and international federations of Olympic sports.


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