Column: For inspirational women this lot take some beating

Oxford Women's Blue Boat cox Rosemary Ostfeld (left) after being thrown into the river Thames following the women's Boat Race. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Oxford Women's Blue Boat cox Rosemary Ostfeld (left) after being thrown into the river Thames following the women's Boat Race. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

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Another day, another lifestyle survey to brighten up the day/ make me see red.

Another day, another lifestyle survey to brighten up the day/ make me see red.

It was very definitely the latter in this case.

We women don’t feel confident without a face full of slap. Without a base layer, lashings of mascara and a dash of lippie we have zero self-esteem, it helpfully proclaimed.

Of course, it went on to plug various beauty brands. Great news for the multi-million pound cosmetics industry, not so great for news for young women growing up in an image obsessed world powered by the unstoppable rise of social media.

Grrrr. It’s no wonder that mental health problems are on the rise among the younger generation.

But then I thought back to some photographs of young women in the media last weekend. Not pouting selfies or mailonline style “ flauting her toned abs on a beach” style shots. These were photos of celebrating young women who had taken part in a great sporting challenge. One team weas victorious, one wasn’t, but, in reality they were all winners.

Admittedly viewers don’t plan their day around getting home in time for the Boat Race; rowing is very much a minority sport (even though it is one in which GB excels). If I wasn’t the mum of a rower I doubt whether I’d watch it either, but what an inspirational event this Easter Sunday race turned out to be.

It was nailbiting stuff from the off. The outright favourites fluffed the start and the underdogs took advantage and set off apace, It was neck and neck until the fancied Oxford crew suddenly swerved off towards the banks of the Thames in what looked like a steering mishap. No such thing. Their switched-on cox had spotted the rough waters ahead. Moments later the river had turned into something more like the North Sea and the Cambridge crew who had resolutely stuck to a course down the middle of the river that ordinarily would have sped them to victory, found their boat swamped. They were literally sitting up to their waists in water, barely able to lift the oars through the crashing waves. The referee following behind ordered the plucky girls to head for the shelter and safety of the shallow water near the bank and prepared the safety flotilla following to pick them up. But these brave women had other ideas; as the pumps got to work and baled out the muddy water, their cox signalled that they were carrying on, for pride. Amazing stuff.

As the victors crossed the line, Cambridge set a course for the finishing line where thousands of spectators - and the sporting Oxford crew - cheered them home.

They carried on because, as they explained later, they’d trained all year for that moment. For rowers that means up at the crack of dawn, hacking ice off the river, knuckling down to study/work during the day then training in the evening.

They deserved a moment of glory and they got it. They demonstrated what competitive sport is all about.

These fine athletes showed the other side of young women today; tough, determined, brave. They pulled together as a team. They probably managed to tackle this challenge without the aid of layers of slap.

This is the way to build confidence and self-esteem in young women.

The men’s race, by the way, was boring and predicatable by comparison.