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Picture-perfect moments in women's sports
BY KAMIKA DUNLAP
Lily Yip's still got it, and she has a picture and a whole lot more to prove it.
A snapshot of Yip smashing a ball 100 miles per hour across the net during a table tennis match at the 1996 Olympics has helped to make women's sports history.
"I feel happy when I look at my picture, and I'm very proud," said the 37-year-old Warren Township resident. "I was trying hard to win the point."
Yip -- along with several other athletes and photographers from around the state -- is a part of "Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?" (Random House, $35), a book that celebrates women and girls in sports. The project consists of more than 180 photographs and stories from professional and amateur female athletes and their pre- and post-Title IX experiences. In 1972 Congress passed Title IX, a law that mandated equality for women and girls in schools and opened the playing fields.
"I think it's very exciting for women to look at this book, and I'm very impressed with it," said Yip. "It's good encouragement."
The images were assembled by writer Jane Gottesman and photographer Geoffrey Biddle, who collected pictures from photojournalists and fine-art photographers of women participating in everything from hula hoops to hardball.
An accompanying exhibit of photos is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Its next stop is Salt Lake City, where it will be shown during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Gottesman's work as the only woman reporter for five years on the sports staff at the San Francisco Chronicle inspired "Game Face."
"It was very lonely," Gottesman said. "Women's sports weren't being covered in any kind of regular way, and it was obvious to me that the pictures of women weren't very compelling, and on a subconscious level it affected how girls see themselves."
Gottesman and Biddle reviewed thousands of pictures on the Web, in archives and on contact sheets. They even visited the Library of Congress, Biddle said.
"We must have looked at about 100,000 pictures, and we looked at at least 200 pictures for every one we chose," said Biddle, who has four pictures included in "Game Face."
"We used her (Gottesman's) vision and my eye to look for images that said something distinct, special and true."
The book includes two photos taken by Norman Y. Lono of Tenafly during the early days of his career at the Philadelphia Daily News. In one of his photos, "By A Nose," a young girl leans her face into the tape to cross the finish line and win her race. In the other photo, "Winners, Second Place," six members of a high school girls basketball team stand with their arms folded as their second place trophy sits on the floor.
"'Game Face' is a wonderful thing, and it's about time," said Lono. "Especially because there are a lot of other places my work could be exhibited and the images go up on the wall, and that would be the end of it."
In conjunction with the publication, the Girls Scouts of the USA has developed a Game Face patch program, in which Scouts participate in educational activities that address issues of body image and female athleticism.
"We want to increase opportunities for Girl Scouts to participate in sports-related activities to build their self-esteem (and) teamwork skills, and incorporate health and fitness into their lives," said Verna Simpkins, director of membership and program initiatives for the Girl Scouts of the USA. "'Game Face' gave us an opportunity to help girls discover the athlete within them regardless of physical condition and stamina."
"We want people to feel affirmed and that they fit into this picture, too, and that it could be them and their experience reflected," Gottesman said. "We want girls and women to feel good about their bodies every day."
Yip agreed. A gold medalist at the 1991 and 1995 Pan-American Games, Yip said she stays in shape by running, jumping rope and weight lifting. A mother of two, she works as a full-time coach at the New Jersey Table Tennis Club in Westfield.
"I think I can play forever," Yip said. "The longer I play, the better touch I have."