Women's sport is growing at a faster rate then men's and becoming more competitive by the year according to multi-Paralympic Winter Games gold medalist Verena Bentele.
"I am convinced that sport for women has become more and more ambitious and that the level of competition has risen," said Bentele who recently picked up a Laureus World Sports Award to mark her achievement in winning five gold medals at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
"This has been the same for men's sport, but I think the development of women's sport has been much faster. I also think that women's sport is being taken more seriously now.
"In Paralympic Sport there has been a huge development in the past 10 to 15 years. The starting fields have grown and the competition has become tougher.
"My personal opinion is that previously women in sport were often reduced to their looks and the focus was not on their sporting talent. There has definitely been a change and a very positive one at that," she added.
Although Bentel is pleased that women's sport is heading in the right direction, she believes many challenges still lie ahead, in particular in the area of coaching.
"There is definitely a challenge that you have to stand your ground with male functionaries and coaches," she said.
"Although more women are becoming coaches it is still dominated by men. This means that women have a different standing and I have experienced it myself. It is a challenge to stand your grounds and ask for your rights."
Having competed at the very elite level of Paralympic Sport and won nearly every medal and award available, Bentele is a role model for all women aspiring to get into sport. Her advice to others is pretty straight forward.
"Look for a sport where you have some talent, that you have fun practicing and look for people that can support you, be it your coach, your friends or your family.
"With that support try to reach the goals you set yourself. That has always helped me, for example when I has problems with male coaches, I looked for the support somewhere else."
*More on Verena here :- Inside World ParasportImage courtesy IPC website
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS