For me, part of it was selfish because four-man is the coolest event. It’s four guys, four girls, or what have you, jumping into a tiny sled all quick. But the other part is that it never made sense to me, guys being able to drive bobsleds better. Maybe sometimes people apply the stereotype that women can’t drive cars to bobsled. That’s bogus. There are plenty of women who can drive just as well if not better than men.Why is it important to be able to see women and men racing alongside each other?For so long, as a young girl, you’re told that you’ll never be equal to a boy. Fortunately, my parents have three girls, and they never let us believe we were any less than our male counterparts.I think seeing it helps those people who are constantly delivered messages that they’ll never be as good as a man. You’re like, Hey, maybe these lies that I’ve been told my whole life aren’t correct. Maybe I can challenge men in some other areas. Maybe it’s in the classroom, maybe it’s in the boardroom. The world would be such a better place if more women had the ability to take the reins.That’s so important. Speaking of parenting, this is going to be your first Olympics as a mom. You’ve been very consistent about pointing out how that’s rare in sports and needs to be less rare. How has being a mother changed you as an athlete?The track we were just at, in Altenberg, is a very tough track for me. I’ve got more crashes there, I think, than any other track in my career. And I’m sitting in the parking lot warming up and getting ready for the race, and I was like, Man, this track is so hard; my brain gets fried doing this. And then I had the thought: But at least I’m not in the NICU right now. I will take a thousand runs down this track—a million runs down this track—compared to what it’s like to sit in the NICU.My complete perspective has changed on this sport. I absolutely love driving a bobsled, but at the end of the day, number one is my son. He will always come first. Having that perspective frees me to do what I need to do at the track but also realize that if it doesn’t go well, I’m coming home to this little boy, and he doesn’t care. As athletes, sometimes you let a sport define you. But I’m not my results. I’m Nico’s mom. I’m Nic’s wife. I’m all these other things. I feel a lot more willing to take risks and try different things within my sport because I know I have that security behind me.What were some of the challenges you thought you might face as a mom in sports? How does your reality compare?I knew one of the biggest challenges would be the financial part of childcare. To prepare for the Winter Games, we went to China for the month of October, came home for a couple of weeks, then left home again in mid-November, and won’t be back until January 18. We needed somebody to be able to take care of Nico while my husband and I were sliding every single day at the track. Fortunately, I had saved the prize money I won in the 2018 Games to make sure I could go into this next adventure. So, that’s what’s paying for Nico right now. And some grants from &Mother and from the Women’s Sports Foundation are helping. But not everybody has all those kinds of resources. What does that look like for the next mother coming, who doesn’t have a medal yet, but wants to try anyway?
It’s no surprise Abby Roque found hockey. That’s a natural by-product of growing up with a dad who coached college hockey in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. “It’s all I wanted to do,” Roque tells SELF. But part of what sets Roque apart is the combination of force and finesse that made her one of the top collegiate women’s hockey players in the country. During her four years playing for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, she scored 170 points in 155 games, making her the ninth all-time scorer since the team’s inception in 1999. After Roque graduated in May 2020, USA Hockey named her the Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year, which has honored many of the sport’s best athletes in the past. Given that Roque is a cornerstone for the future of women’s hockey, it almost feels too coincidental that her last name is pronounced “rock.”The world will be watching when Roque makes her Olympic debut in Beijing this month alongside greats like gold medalist Hilary Knight. Roque is one of eight newcomers to Team USA—the 15 other members all have prior Olympic experience. But Roque, who turned 24 in September, will be the only Indigenous woman representing the U.S. on Olympic ice. In fact, she’ll be the first.“Somebody told me that the other day, and I was blown away,” Roque says. “Minority players need representation. If you look at a team and just see more of the same white men playing the game, you’re not going to get girls involved, you’re not going to get young minority players involved. I’m hoping in 10 to 15 years, we’ll see a big shift because of the visibility we’re trying to create right now. I want to be a piece of that and say, ‘I’m here.’”Roque is also adding her voice to a chorus speaking out about the need to pay women hockey players the same as men.In April 2021, the Premier Hockey Federation (a professional league then known as the National Women’s Hockey League) announced it was doubling the maximum amount teams could pay their players from $150,000 to $300,000 in the 2021–2022 season. According to some sources, that averages out to about $15,000 per player, though reports differ on the exact division of funds. This number will rise further in the 2022–2023 season, increasing from a $300,000 cap to a $750,000 cap to be shared among the team. For comparison, a starting 2021–2022 season contract for men in the National Hockey League is $750,000 per player.“We do all the work that an NHL hockey player does,” Roque says. “We just want to be paid a good livable wage and be treated like true professionals.”That’s not to say there hasn’t been some progress. In March 2017 the U.S. women’s national hockey team announced it wouldn’t be playing in the upcoming World Championships to protest the players’ lower pay and lesser benefits compared to the men’s team. (Especially considering that the women’s team tends to perform better than the men’s—it has won a medal at each Games since women’s hockey became an Olympic sport in 1998.) Nearly two weeks later, USA Hockey, the governing body of competitive ice hockey at Olympic and Paralympic levels, reached a historic pay deal with the women’s national team players. The deal established a living wage of about $71,000 per player—a huge jump from the $1,000 monthly stipend players were previously paid only in the six months leading up to an Olympics. The deal, which lasted four years, also outlined additional pay opportunities, such as performance bonuses, and granted the same per diem and benefits as the men’s team. Now that the four-year deal has expired, the team has agreed with USA Hockey on a one-year contract; the shorter length will make it easier to change course as necessary because of the pandemic. And while there are debates about how effective the deal ultimately was, it laid groundwork for Roque to be one of the first women’s hockey players to get a living wage while representing the U.S. as an Olympian.
When you’re thinking about the Games, do you think about having to encounter Team Canada?Oh, yeah. You start to get butterflies when you’re in an elevator and have to be next to them. My team makes it okay. They’re so focused and dedicated to what they’re trying to achieve, which is high performance at the purest form. It allows me to acknowledge that awkwardness but get right back to our task at hand. I’ve got everything that I need and I want, and I can perform from there. And nobody can infiltrate that.Obviously, professional athletes make a laundry list of sacrifices to get where they are. When you think back on your career up to this point, what are the sacrifices that really stand out to you?The biggest one is family. My husband and I have put off having kids for multiple years. It’s really great to see Allyson Felix have a kid, come back, and win medals. But even she had to face battles. I don’t want this to be my only Olympics for Team USA. So, I am looking toward 2026, but what does it mean to have kids? Can we travel? Would I have the motivation to compete?The amount of birthdays or holidays that I’ve missed. I hadn’t gone back to Canada for almost three years since I moved down. COVID had something to do with that for about a year, but also going through immigration for the first couple of years.And you’ve got the financial strain. I have probably $90,000 worth of just random steel runners that are only valuable to bobsledders. I also have a bobsled, which is $100,000–$150,000. That’s a really nice car. And I still have to pay my bills. We still have to make sure that we have a place to live. So this is where the sponsors come in, because they really can make or break an athlete’s career.Physically, as well, what we put our bodies through. I am very, very specific in what I do as an athlete. And my body’s taken a toll. I have no doubt it’s going to be busted by the time I’m 65. I risk tearing muscles. I risk pulling myself apart with the explosivity and the power that I create.How are you feeling about competing for the U.S. in February?Whether it’s a new school, a new job, a new city, there’s a transition period. And for me, it was no different. But I wouldn’t have changed it for the entire world. I’m so happy with where I’m at. I feel so empowered as an athlete—as a female athlete—in my position. The professionalism and respect are huge within USA Bobsled. I’m more motivated than ever to do my very best work because I want to not only give back to this country but also to a program that has empowered me the way that they have.Pat MartinInterview has been edited and condensed. Meet all of SELF’s 2022 Olympic and Paralympic cover stars here.
The moment the national anthem ended at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Oksana Masters started thinking about her next race. She was still on the podium, having just won a gold medal in cycling—her second from the 2020 Paralympics and fourth overall. With those wins, she was only the fourth U.S. woman and sixth American to have gold medals from both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. And, in six months, she’d have a chance to add to her collection in the cross-country skiing and biathlon events at Beijing’s 2022 Winter Paralympics. (Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.)“That transition is not smooth, not cute, and not pretty,” Masters tells SELF. “You’re, in theory, as fit as you can be for the summer sport, and then you go into your winter season sport. It’s as if you never worked out in your entire life.” And while the Summer and Winter Games are normally spaced two years apart, a pandemic-induced delay of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics drastically shortened her preparation timeline. So, Masters took a day off to soak in her wins. Then, she got back to training.This work ethic has earned Masters 10 Paralympic medals across four sports (rowing, cycling, skiing, and biathlon). Even by Masters’s standards, the fact that she made it to the starting line of this gold-medal-winning race, let alone the podium, was shocking; 100 days before the Tokyo Games began, she was in surgery for the removal of multiple lymph nodes and a tumor on her femur. In her hospital room, she asked her mom for some resistance bands—anything to get just a little sweat going. So close to the Paralympic trials, she was on borrowed time, turning every second she could into a chance to get her strength back. “I’m not going to lie, a lot of tears went into it,” she says.By the time the qualifiers rolled around a few weeks later, Masters had only been back in her handcycle for two or three days. “I had to cut out parts of my bike to get into it because I still had the incision and [bandaging],” says Masters, 32. If she finished the race, she’d be guaranteed a spot on Team USA in Tokyo.Competing with intense pain, she crashed. She didn’t finish the race. But that night, Masters got a call—based on her performance at the World Cup in May, she was in. “After that massive roller coaster of emotions was when I heard I was going to Tokyo,” she says.So many of Masters’s stories go like this: extreme lows followed by extreme highs. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Gemini,” she says, laughing. But she’s adamant that her comebacks from those lows don’t make her superhuman. Masters’s forthcoming memoir, The Hard Parts—which covers her childhood growing up in the shadow of Chernobyl, the abuse she suffered in orphanages in Ukraine, her adoption, her double leg amputation, and her rise to total athletic dominance—is very decidedly not meant to be the inspiration porn of which she’s grown weary. “My goal with this memoir isn’t for someone to have a feel-good read, where they’re like, ‘Wow, that’s incredible what she did,’” she says.
When “Yellowjackets” (a series about a high-school-girls soccer team forced to survive in the wilderness after a plane crash) premiered, it set the internet atwitter with comparisons to Lord of the Flies and freaked out ruminations about what you might do in the same dire straits. It also unleashed a wave of body shaming for actor Melanie Lynskey. Lynskey, who plays Shauna, responded to a tweet by writer and body image activist Ashley C. Ford about the body shaming she’d experienced from fans of the show since Yellowjackets aired. “Most egregious are the ‘I care about her health!!’ people,” she wrote. “Bitch you don’t see me on my Peloton! You don’t see me running through the park with my child. Skinny does not always equal healthy.”Twitter contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.This isn’t the first time Lynskey has experienced body shaming in connection with the show. Earlier this month, she shared in an interview with Rolling Stone that she also experienced body shaming on set when a member of the production team reportedly implied she needed to lose weight for the role. “They were asking me, ‘What do you plan to do? I’m sure the producers will get you a trainer. They’d love to help you with this,’” she said, per People. Lynskey deliberately wanted to protect her character from that mindset, she said. “I did find it important that this character is just comfortable and sexual and not thinking or talking about it, because I want women to be able to to watch it and be like, ‘Wow, she looks like me and nobody’s saying she’s the fat one,’” she told Rolling Stone. “That representation is important.”On set, Lynskey’s costars Christina Ricci, Tawny Cypress, and Juliette Lewis came to her defense, and Lewis reportedly wrote a letter to the producers, per People. Lynskey has spoken in the past about her struggle with body image. “I was very unwell for a long time,” she told People in 2016. “I had eating issues and at a certain point I was like, ‘I’m not going to survive’—not like I was on death’s door or anything, but I was so unhappy and my hair was falling out.” Ultimately, she worked on addressing the pressure to conform to unrealistic ideals and believe that people would hire her just the way she was: “I did have to truly become comfortable with myself, because you can’t fake it.”Related:
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, who have a multi-year deal content deal with Spotify, added their voices to those calling for Spotify to address the issue in a statement released via their Archewell foundation. “Since the inception of Archewell, we have worked to address the real-time global misinformation crisis. Hundreds of millions of people are affected by the serious harms of rampant mis- and disinformation every day,” the statement read, according to People. “Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform. We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis.”So what does Spotify say about all this? On Sunday, the company finally responded. “You’ve had a lot of questions over the last few days about our platform policies and the lines we have drawn between what is acceptable and what is not. We have had rules in place for many years but admittedly, we haven’t been transparent around the policies that guide our content more broadly,” CEO Daniel Ek wrote in a public letter posted to the company’s website. “Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time. These issues are incredibly complex. We’ve heard you—especially those from the medical and scientific communities.” Moving forward, Spotify will be adding a content advisory to any podcast on the platform discussing COVID-19, which will link to a hub aiming to provide “easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources,” the letter reads. “We will also begin testing ways to highlight our Platform Rules in our creator and publisher tools to raise awareness around what’s acceptable and help creators understand their accountability for the content they post on our platform.” Many say that’s not enough. “This is mere cosmetic dusting,” tweeted Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist, health economist, and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.Twitter contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Twitter contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Twitter contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Rogan issued his own response on Sunday via Instagram, promising to “balance things out” by featuring “more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones,” he said per the Times. As of Monday, JRE episode 1,757 was still available on Spotify. Related:
For many people, regardless of size, stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office can be a triggering, harmful experience. “Please don’t weigh me” cards may offer a solution. The cards, which are gaining a ton of attention online, were created by More-love.org, an online resource created to help parents raise “kids who are free from body hate, disordered eating, and eating disorders.” They’re a subtle way to send a strong message to medical staff: “Please don’t weigh me unless it’s (really) medically necessary. If you really need my weight, please tell me why so that I can give you my informed consent,” the cards read. Being weighed, particularly in front of someone else, is rarely a pleasant experience, thanks to a culture of relentless weight stigma and unrealistic body expectations. But beyond being uncomfortable, it can also be harmful, particularly for those dealing with disordered eating, eating disorders, and body image issues. “Because we live in a fatphobic society, being weighed and talking about weight causes feelings of stress and shame,” More-love.org reads. “Many people feel anxiety about seeing the doctor, and will avoid going to the doctor in order to avoid the scale.”Asking not to be weighed may do more than help you avoid a triggering moment—it can also help you shift the focus of your appointment away from weight. Anti-fat bias is an increasingly recognized problem in medicine. A tendency to see size over everything else may lead providers to misdiagnose patients in larger bodies and misattribute symptoms to size instead of the true underlying condition. The issue is well documented on social media by the hashtag #DiagnosisFat. Twitter contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.A growing recognition of medical fat bias has led to the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement, which promotes the research-backed idea that weight is a flawed measure of health. It’s true that weight and health can be related, as SELF has reported, but not in an absolute sense: gaining weight is not always unhealthy, losing weight not always a health improvement. The HAES approach, created by the Association of Size Diversity and Health, corrects these false assumptions, encouraging practitioners to celebrate body diversity and focus on a holistic view of health rather than a weight-centered one.
Just as we’re finally getting some good news about omicron, scientists are investigating what some are calling a “stealth variant”: COVID variant BA.2. The BA.2 variant is technically a sub-variant of omicron, which is scientifically known as BA.1. Think of it like a spinoff of the original—different but not totally new. The biggest difference between the omicron and BA.2 are changes on the spike protein, Theodora Hatziioannou, Ph.D., an associate professor of virology at Rockefeller University, told the Wall Street Journal. That’s the part of the virus that helps it bind to human cells, as SELF previously reported, and is targeted by the coronavirus vaccine. There are around 20 spike protein differences between BA.1 and BA.2. The sub-variants emerged around the same time—BA.2 was first discovered in mid-November, according to CNN—but scientists are talking about BA.2 now because of how widespread it’s become. Since being identified, BA.2 has been found in 49 countries, including the U.S. where it makes up about 1% of all cases, and is now the dominant driver of COVID cases in some countries including India, CNN reported. Some experts are referring to BA.2 as the “stealth variant” of omicron because of the way it presents in lab tests, specifically in a signature known as the s-gene target failure, CNN explains. In layman’s terms, this means BA.2 can often initially look like other variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. So, does the “stealth” nature of omicron 2.0 make it more dangerous? It’s early, and scientists still have a lot to learn about BA.2. Early evidence from Denmark, where BA.2 currently accounts for about half of cases, suggests that it may be slightly more contagious than omicron BA.1. “Preliminary calculations indicate that BA.2 is effectively well over one and a half times more contagious than BA.1,” Denmark’s Serum Institute reported this week, per the WSJ. But so far, health experts say there doesn’t appear to be any cause for panic, thanks to three majorly reassuring pieces of evidence. First, the mutations that separate COVID variant BA.2 from its cousin don’t appear to make it more likely to cause severe cases that lead to hospitalization and death. Initial data from Denmark’s report found no differences in hospitalizations caused by BA.2 as compared to BA.1, per the WSJ.Secondly, there’s evidence that the COVID vaccine is just as effective against BA.2. as it is against BA.1. A report published by the UK Health Security Agency this week, found that vaccines were actually slightly more effective at protecting against symptomatic cases of BA.2—an initial dose (two shots) plus booster offered about 70% protection against BA.2 as compared to 63% protection against BA.1. (In terms of natural COVID immunity, if you’ve had the BA.1 version of omicron, you likely have some immunity to BA.2, Dr. Hatziioannou, told the WSJ.) And finally, COVID tests appear to be just as effective at detecting the presence of BA.2. “Both FDA-approved lab-based and at-home tests should detect this lineage, as well as the other omicron [sublineage], BA.1,” Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine for infectious diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told CNN. (As SELF previously reported, research suggests rapid antigen home tests are effective at detecting omicron infections. But since rapid tests are less sensitive than PCR tests, they may not catch an infection quite as early. If you know you’ve been exposed to omicron, it’s best to be extra cautious and wear a mask around others even if you get a negative rapid test result.) BA.2 might not be any more destructive than the original omicron variant but it’s a poignant reminder that the pandemic isn’t over and new variants of the coronavirus can still emerge. “I’d be very surprised, with the current state of the global population in terms of immune status, if we didn’t see more variants emerge,” Angela Rasmussen, Ph.D., a virologist with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan, told CNN. In other words, it’s still important to get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a mask. Related:
With omicron still causing hundreds of thousands of new COVID cases each day, it’s understandable that, for some people, getting infected is starting to feel inevitable. Getting a COVID booster may be the best thing you can do to protect yourself. As SELF has reported, vaccines are the best way to prevent severe COVID outcomes like hospitalization and death. But research also shows that vaccine protection may wane over time. Enter the need for a third dose to boost antibody levels back up. As the omicron variant began to surge, it became especially clear that two doses may not be enough to keep you from getting the highly contagious variant. In December, vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech released research which found that while two doses of the vaccine still offered protection against “severe forms of the disease,” they were significantly less effective at preventing infection. As omicron has continued to spread—it’s now responsible for 99.9% of all COVID infections in the U.S., per CNN—scientists have been working to figure out just how well the COVID booster protects against mild infections as well as severe COVID outcomes. This week, vaccine maker Moderna published a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found two important things: Six months after the booster shot, antibody protection had waned, but ultimately it was still effective in protecting against the virus. Moderna’s study found, similar to the results of the Pfizer BioNTech study, that anti-COVID antibodies waned significantly in the months after the second vaccine dose. In analyzing blood samples of people who received the Moderna vaccine, researchers found that antibody levels capable of neutralizing omicron were found in 85% of people a month after their second dose. But by seven months, neutralization of omicron was found in only 55% of people. Getting a third dose turned things around somewhat. Researchers reported a 20-fold increase in omicron-neutralizing antibodies a month after the booster. But did the booster protection eventually wane as well? It did, according to the study, but not by as much. Six months after the booster shot, antibody protection was just over six times lower than after it was first administered—something researchers expected. “This is not uncommon, for mRNA vaccines or for vaccines in general,” Dave Montefiori, Ph.D., a professor in Duke University’s department of surgery and coauthor on the Moderna study, told CNN. “Antibodies go down because the body figures it does not need to maintain them at that high level. It doesn’t mean there is no protection. There is immunologic memory.” To that point, another lab study from Pfizer, which was published earlier this week, found that four months after a booster dose, antibody levels were still high enough to protect against omicron, The Washington Post reported. Despite all of this, as SELF previously reported, only 67% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated (which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently defines as having received two primary doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one shot of the single dose Johnson & Johnson vax), according to the CDC. And of those vaccinated people, only 40% have gotten their booster.
Meghan McCain is opening up about her experience with omicron and the lingering physical and mental effects of the virus. “What I experienced wasn’t mild, it wasn’t easy, and I am still fearful of the unknown long-term side effects,” she wrote in a new column for the Daily Mail. The omicron variant is now responsible for nearly every COVID infection. But while it’s driven a record number of cases and hospitalizations, omicron is generally understood to be less severe than delta or previous variants of the coronavirus. New research published this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested this can indeed be the case, though perhaps to a lesser extent than we’d hope, as reported by CNN. CDC researchers analyzed COVID outcomes from the first winter surge, the peak of delta-variant infections, and the current peak of the omicron wave and found patients with omicron infections were 5% less likely to be hospitalized or die than patients infected with the delta variant.This does not mean omicron should be taken lightly or that it can’t make you very sick, as was McCain’s experience. She shared that both she and her husband experienced debilitating symptoms and felt “more sick than the ‘mild omicron’ headlines and Twitter streams suggested.” Both tested positive despite being fully vaccinated. (McCain did not share whether or not she had gotten the booster, which research suggests provides superior protection against omicron.) “I knew that I was tempting fate when I reposted a meme on my Instagram Stories joking about dodging golf balls at a driving range. That’s how I felt—having gone nearly two years into the pandemic without catching COVID,” she wrote. “I think there is a feeling of invincibility after somehow dodging the virus for so long.”So many people have gotten infected with COVID since the omicron variant emerged that many have started, understandably, to wonder: Is everyone going to get omicron? For the record, it’s true that many people will. “Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody,” Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this month, as SELF reported. That’s why it’s so important to be vaccinated and boosted. As Dr. Fauci explained, fully vaccinated individuals are “very likely, with some exceptions” to avoid the most serious cases which result in hospitalizations and death.But as McCain shared, there’s often still a stigma associated with a positive test, even when you’ve done everything “right.” “With the bright pink, pregnancy-like test line staring back at me from my white countertop, I—to my surprise—became overcome with feelings of fear and shame,” she wrote. “My husband and I are both fully vaccinated. And Dr. Fauci told the country months ago that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when everyone would eventually catch the omicron variant, so I don’t know why I was so surprised that we had finally tested positive.”