AIPS / LAUSANNE: A woman, whose name is seemingly lost to history, sat in on the first Executive Committee meeting of the AIPS, which took place inside a boxing ring at the Sporting Club of France in Paris, in 1924.

There she was at a different desk; silent and unnoticed, her cloche hat covering her eyes, as she wrote what would probably become one of the first official documents, foundation blocks on which AIPS is built.

The iconic image is the only evidence of a woman’s participation in the founding congress of the association, which took place during the 1924 Olympic Summer Games.

A small number of women “were part of the 685 journalists from 41 countries that attended the Games, but there is no where it is stated whether any woman took part in the AIPS gathering, which attracted 80 journalists representing 29 countries for the first session and 67 journalists from 18 countries in the second session.

While the woman in the boxing ring may not have even been considered a member of the association, her presence has gained significance over the years.

Although sports journalism is still predominantly male-dominated, several women have made and are still making their marks in the leadership of AIPS, its continental sections and member associations.

Between Milano 2009 and Seoul 2017, the AIPS had up to three women in its Executive Committee. Then in 2022, the delayed 84th congress in Rome witnessed the election of two women as vice-presidents for the first time in the history of the association – Evelyn Watta from Kenya, and Zsuzsa Csisztu from Hungary.

Other powerful women in the 100-year-history of AIPS are:

At London 1973, Pat Besford became the first woman to address an AIPS Congress. She was the President of the AIPS swimming commission as well as the treasurer of the Sports Writers’ Association of Great Britain at the time. Three years later in 1976, she would become the first female to lead the SWA, now known as the Sports Journalists Association (SJA). In 1977 at the Milano Marittima Congress, the European Union of Sports Press (UEPS) was officially incorporated into the AIPS as a Continental Section and Besford was elected as its Secretary General, hence becoming the first woman to occupy an executive position within the continental structure of AIPS. Then from October 1981 to June 1982 she served in the AIPS Executive Committee as the representative of AIPS Europe. Since 1979 The Pat Besford Award for Outstanding Sporting Achievement has been awarded annually in her honour by the Sports Journalists Association. Besford, who was a freelance swimming correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and others, as well as an author, died in 1988 at the age of 69.

Oviedo 1997 was the first time in the history of AIPS that the sports journalist’s association of the country hosting the Congress was being led by a female president. Mari Carmen Izquierdo was at the helm of the Spanish Sports Press Association – a position she held for 20 years from 1993 to 2013. A pioneer of women’s sports journalism in Spain, Izquierdo began her journey with the sports newspaper AS and joined Televisión Española a year later. She would go on to work for several other top media print and electronic outlets in Spain before taking up the position of Executive Production Director of TVE Sports Programmes for almost ten years and also becoming the Deputy General Director of the Olympic Sports Association (ADO) Plan. She was a member of the Spanish Olympic Committee. She died in Madrid on July 30, 2019, at the age of 69. In his tribute, the current President of the Spanish Sports Press Association, Julian Redondo, said: “She went where even some men dared not to tread and she conquered with her daring, know-how, self-confidence and exemplary way of communicating to all audiences.”
Mari Carmen Izquierdo

The 1997 AIPS Congress in Oviedo, Spain was where a woman was, for the first time in AIPS history, elected to the Executive Committee. This was achieved by He Huixian, who was at that time the President of the China Sports Journalists Association and Vice President of the Asian Sports Journalists Association (AIPS Asia). She was an AIPS EC Member for two four-year terms from 1997 to 2005. At the 2005 Congress in Marrakech, Morocco, He Huixian was made an AIPS Honorary Member. He began her career at Anhui Huizhou Newspaper and Broadcasting Bureau, where she spent ten years (1968-1978) as a reporter and editor. Throughout her career she rose through the ranks to become an editor-in-chief and director. Away from the newsroom, He served as director of the Publicity Department and spokesperson of the National Sports Commission, secretary-general of the Chinese Olympic Committee, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Olympic Committee, and director of the Press Committee. The award-winning author is a ‘March 8 Red-Banner Holder’ an honour given by the All-China Women’s Federation on March 8, International Women’s Day, to outstanding Chinese women.

2005 marked another huge milestone when Laima Janusonyte-Steinhoff from Lithuania became the first woman to be elected as a vice president of AIPS. She held the position until 2017. In September 2007, under her leadership, Vilnius, Lithuania hosted an AIPS Executive Committee meeting. She became an Honorary Member of the association at the 2017 AIPS Congress held in Seoul/PyeongChang, South Korea. The long-time Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT) sports journalist and producer, Janusonyte, was president of the Lithuanian Sports Journalists Association for many years. In 2023, she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award by the national sports journalist’s association for her dedication to the sports journalism profession.

Evelyn Watta attended her first AIPS Congress in 2006 in Doha, as one of the speakers in the section dedicated to Women in Sport. Three years later at the 72nd AIPS Congress in Milan, the Kenyan joined the AIPS Executive Committee as an Executive Committee Member, the first African woman and one of the youngest to serve on the board. She held the position for eight years – alongside a stint as interim secretary general – before climbing to a vice president role in 2017 – again the first African to be elected vice president of AIPS and the second woman ever to occupy the position. At the national level, Watta, spearheaded the revival of the dormant association where she served as treasurer of the Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK). She also served two terms on the AIPS Africa Exco. Watta has been a sports journalist for broadcast, print and online publications, including NTV Kenya, for more than two decades. The 2014 CNN African journalist of the year in sports writing currently works at the Olympic Channel in Madrid, Spain.

Roslyn Morris joined AIPS in 2006 as executive editor of AIPS Magazine. She took on the role of AIPS Secretary-General from 2009 – 2016, the first woman to assume that position, albeit not elected. Her appointment was in line with the 2009 amended AIPS Statutes which stated that the Secretary-General position would no longer be an elected position, rather be an employee of AIPS, an EC member who attends meetings but without the right to vote. She was instrumental in developing the AIPS Young Reporters Programme and facilitating the role of AIPS as Special Olympics International’s first-ever Global Impact Partner. Roslyn Morris was responsible for the affiliation of nine new AIPS National Associations – Afghanistan, Chinese Taipei, Lesotho, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Syria, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Together with President Merlo she organised the successful AIPS Sports Integrity Symposium “Illegal betting the threat” conducted in January, 2011 in the Olympic Museum, Lausanne to highlight the threat of illegal betting on sport. IOC President Dr Jacques Rogge officially opened the symposium, which gathered 170 delegates from 53 nations. Another highlight was the very first AIPS Power of Sport and CIFP World Fair Play Awards also held in January, 2011 in the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel, Lausanne to celebrate the very first AIPS Power of Sport Awards and the bestowing of the International Committee for Fair Play’s (CIFP) World Fair Play Awards. IOC President Dr Jacques Rogge gave the opening address before the 220 guests including Edwin Moses.
Morris is now Honorary Secretary General of AIPS and a member of the jury of the AIPS Sport Media Awards. Voluntarily she works closely with ABC International Development’s Women in News and Sports (WINS) initiative, a training and mentoring program that provides female journalists in the Pacific and Asia with the tools to carve out a career in the male-dominated world of sports media. She was instrumental in the organisation of several AIPS online educational seminars during the Pandemic.
Morris completed her journalism cadetship with News Limited in the late 1970’s and went on to work for The Australian, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Mirror newspapers. A move to television saw her join a large regional network where she was bureau chief and on-air reporter/presenter. She joined Good Morning Australia in Sydney as a senior on-air reporter before moving to New York, where she worked for UNICEF, and Murdoch’s Star Magazine. Morris later became an international education consultant before joining AIPS.

Zsuzsa Csisztu joined the AIPS Executive Committee as member in 2017 and was elected vice-president in 2022. At the national level, she is the first woman to be elected as the first vice-president of the Hungarian Sports Journalist Association – a position she still holds. Csisztu has been working mainly in the field of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years covering a wide range of sports events, in addition to being as a presenter and editor of cultural, lifestyle, entertainment and political programmes. She has covered seven Olympic Games, and more than a hundred major events. Csisztu is also a member of the Hungarian Olympic Committee. As an athlete, she was a member of the Hungarian National Gymnastics Team from 1982-1992 and was crowned as the Hungarian champion 10 times. She represented Hungary in two European and three world championships as well as the Olympic Games in Seoul 1988. Csisztu is also a lawyer specialised in sports law. She is currently the Head of Sport at Mandiner online and weekly magazine as well as presenter and producer of Csisztu Sport Cast on her YouTube channel.