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“Girls Just Want To Have Fun” – women in sport

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Once every four years a host city puts on the biggest show on Earth.

This year the world has seen the 2016 Rio Olympics come and go.

As usual, these games were not free of controversy, with doubts about security, venue preparedness, mosquito-borne diseases, systemic doping scandals and even a stoush about the reporting of female athletes. All too often, women in sport find that journalists on what they wear and how they look rather than on their performance as athletes.

All of this in a town which hosts an annual Carnival where many female participants are baring more flesh than an Olympic swimmer.

Closer to home, I’ve just been to a much smaller show in Brisbane called “The Ekka”, hosted for the 139th time by the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association.

I love going to “The Ekka”. There are no metal detectors and no security on the gate, and where else in a big city do you get to see wood chopping, so many animals, so much embroidery and so many elaborately iced cakes.

I remember as a child seeing a man shot out of a cannon in the arena, and every year there was the Holden Precision Driving Team.

Monaros, and then Commodores, would race around the track barely touching.

In later years one extra vehicle would do circuit on two wheels – but please, don’t try to do this at home.

The Ekka was also a place where innovations would be showcased.

This year they had a Tesla Model S.

Apparently there are 115 other Model S’s on the road in Queensland, but I haven’t seen one, and I certainly haven’t heard one yet.

While $111,196 will get you a basic Tesla Model S 60, the variant on display at The Ekka was the P90D for $245,387, fully optioned.

For that money you get the $15,000 Ludicrous Speed Upgrade, which is exactly what it says.

This vehicle will take the occupants from 0 to 100km/h in 3.3 seconds.

That’s less time that it takes to say our Prime Minister’s name.

So a trip to The Ekka is always memorable. 

But for me the best memory from the 2016 Brisbane Exhibition was seeing 21-year-old Renee Gracie in the Hot Wheels V8 Commodore ute drifting around the speedway track.

Readers will remember that in 2015 Ms Gracie and fellow driver Simona de Silvestro were an all-girl team at the Bathurst 1000.

Twenty-nine women have previously competed in the race but, at only 20 years of age, Ms Gracie was pushing the boundaries of both age and gender.

Less memorable was the sexist comment by fellow Bathurst driver David Reynold, which earned him a $25,000 fine and for which he quickly and unreservedly apologized.

Ms Gracie did have the misfortune of running into a concrete barrier during the 2015 race, but the all-girl team never gave up and they did finish the race.

Sure, they qualified second slowest (3.5 seconds off the pace) and finished last, but none of that matters because they beat the sceptics, including Dick Johnson, who said they were only a “million to one” chance of actually finishing the race.

Ms Gracie retorted that, “Dick Johnson hasn’t finished heaps of races so he can’t talk”.

Well done Renee!  Simona and you were both winners in my mind.

Thank you also so much for staying back at The Ekka to sign autographs for your legion of female (and male fans), including yours truly.

An enduring memory for me will be how much inspiration you gave to so many young girls who were at The Ekka that night.

Safe driving,

Doctor Clive Fraser