Cyclists slowed down by rules: “Babies pick up women” - 3. Juni 2022 

Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann’s “EqualEquest” initiative fights discrimination against women in horse sports. So far, the rules state that female cyclists will lose all points in the world rankings if they do not rest their baby.

By Andreas Bellinger

Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann is angry. Failing to take a six-month pregnancy break, the Hamburg jump jumper eliminated all world ranking points from the FEI International Equestrian Association. “Until this rule, I always thought there was diversity in horse sport,” the 41-year-old said. Instead, women’s careers slow down when they have children. Meyer-Zimmermann does not want to leave his case alone. He created the “EqualEquest” initiative and hopes to reconsider it with his well-known campaign partners.

Michaels-Beerbaum and von Bredow-Werndl are also protesting

So far, however, there has been no reaction from the association, says Meyer-Zimmermann in an interview with the NDR. “Unfortunately. But I think with outside help, FEI will definitely be rethinking and adjusting the rules. That would help us all.”

In addition to cyclist Gianna Regenbrecht, her followers include double Olympic champion in dress, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, who will have a second child in a few weeks and then be able to injure herself, and a three-time jump. World Cup winner Meredith Michaels -berry tree. “This rule was originally invented for them,” says Meyer-Zimmermann. “But he didn’t think until the end.”

Diversity researcher Rulofs: “Camp” to that commitment

The more popular the public “EqualEquest” is, the more misunderstood the set of questionable rules grows. “Women cannot be punished for taking a break and returning before the announcement,” diversity researcher Bettina Rulofs told NDR. On the contrary, they deserve the recognition of the double burden of raising children and still being active in the sport.

In fact, it is unacceptable that the Meyer-Zimmermann child is deprived of the opportunity to continue his sport at the level he was practicing before the break. “He has to take part in a campaign to change the situation – he has taken off his cap,” said a professor at Cologne Sports University.

More information

In an interview, Bettina Rulofs talks about structures embedded in associations, underemployed women in senior positions, and sports beyond gender classification. more

Equality with a big question mark

In horse sports, women and men compete against each other, as well as in the Olympics, which gives the sport a certain special status. Equal treatment ends, however, if a cyclist is pregnant and therefore takes a break. It then loses 50 percent of its world ranking points, which are ultimately the basis for permission to start in international tournaments. According to the rules, he is treated as a sick or injured cyclist, and under the same conditions he can be out of competition for between six and twelve months. That alone is a disadvantage for women, neither sick nor injured, according to the EqualEquest website.

Too short a break for children: crash classification

But it becomes serious if the pre-announced break (six or twelve months) is not fulfilled, which Meyer-Zimmermann did when he started in Oliva (Spain) in March, almost two months after the birth of his son Friedrich. The result: As he returned to the pitch too early, the FEI also canceled the remaining 50 percent of its world ranking points.

“After losing points madly, I went from 107th place in the world rankings to 270th and now I have to slowly fight again,” said the German multiple champion, as well as the German European and world champion team. Along with her husband, Christoph, she also runs the Waterkant stables in Pinneberg.

Disadvantages and economic disadvantages of sport

If Meyer-Zimmermann had kept the agreed break, he would not have been able to ride the Klein Flottbek German Show Jumping and Dressage Derby and would have been able to finish second with Chesmu at the Hamburg Championships. But he would keep at least half the points from the previous year. Now it suffers not only sports but also economic damage. Among other things, it is about the protection money that the owners made available to the horse entrepreneur before the pregnancy and about the loss of the horses.

Female cyclists want flexibility and self-determination

“We would like more flexibility without losing ranking points,” says Meyer-Zimmermann. But, according to the EqualEquest’s policy document, “The right to a flexible four- to twelve-month break should only be in the case of pregnancy, and thus only compensate for the gender disadvantage of women.” Rulofs would also like to see such CVs handled properly and says: “What sports associations sometimes try to regulate is not in line with the reality of life, especially for women athletes.”

In short, the disadvantages of women’s gender in high-level sport should be eliminated. “Women pick up babies,” says Meyer-Zimmermann, “and as a result, we also need a little help when it comes to pregnancy and when we take a break.”