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Honoring Sports Pioneers for Women’s History Month
27th February 2021

 


Athletes can often provide great role models for children. Their dedication and perseverance has led many athletes to continue reaching new heights, with new records being set every year.

In honor of Women’s History Month, each week we are highlighting the trailblazing women who broke down equality barriers while also paving the way for future athletes. We tip our hats to these women, alongside the many female athletes in our lives who inspire us to be better.

 

MISTY MAY-TREANOR & KERRI WALSH JENNINGS

These two names are synonymous with beach volleyball. Their teamwork led to three straight Olympic gold medals — losing only a single set in 21 victories — alongside three FIVB World Championships. At one point during their careers, they won an astounding 112 matches in 19 tournaments without losing.

Their success can be attributed to dedication to training and trust.

“If there was a bad dig, I knew Kerri would go and make the best play she could for it,” Misty explained to Olympic.org. “Because we wanted our partner to succeed, it gave that partner freedom to make mistakes. We knew the other person was there to help.”

Although their partnership ended after the 2012 Olympics, both women have gone on to continued success.

Misty, having retired in 2012, received a Master’s degree in Coaching and Athletic Administration and is training the next generation of players at her beach volleyball club.

Meanwhile, Kerri continues to compete and aims to add another gold medal to her collection in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, finding inspiration by growing the sport she loves by running clinics. “None of these girls have played beach volleyball before, but they came out here, like, I’m here to learn, I’m here to have fun, and they were committed.” Kerri told the LA Times. “As a coach or as an ambassador for the sport, when you see kids who don’t really know the sport but they’re curious about it and their potential drives them, like, today was a joy.”

 

MICHELLE WIE WEST

2014 U.S. Women’s Open Champion Michelle Wie West’s golf career started in 2000, when as a 10-year-old she became the at-the-time youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

In 2002, she became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event, and followed that up in 2003 by making an LPGA cut. Later that year, Michelle became the youngest female or male to win a USGA adult event by winning the Women’s Amateur Public Links Tournament.

Michelle’s golf accomplishments would take an entire page to list, with some highlights including playing in men’s events and being a member of multiple Solheim Cup teams, so we’d like to focus on her work as an ambassador for the USGA’s ‘Women Worth Watching‘ campaign. Speaking about her role to CNN, she stated:

“It’s really cool for these young girls to be like, I want to play a sport that means something and is worth something. And it resonates not just in sports, but in corporations and the business world and entertainment that you know more about gender equality and that we are worth watching and we are worth equal.” 

Michelle’s work on and off the course continues to inspire us at TGA, and we can’t wait to see where her career leads to.

 

BILLIE JEAN KING

Billie’s name is synonymous with tennis. You may know her from the multiple Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles she won. Maybe it’s from the world number 1 ranking in both singles and doubles, or for being a member of multiple winning teams at the international Fed Cup (now known as the Billie Jean King Cup).

There’s a chance you’ve heard of her 1973 victory in the “Battle of the Sexes,” where she decisively beat former male Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs in a tennis match.

Billie’s impact extends beyond her on-the-court achievements, having been a member of the “Original Nine” as well as founding both the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation. Her voice carried enough weight that she was able to leverage her popularity to acquire equal prize money between men and women at the U.S. Open.

We can’t thank Billie enough for the time she has spent fighting for equality for girls and women around the world.

 

MANON RHÉAUME

Almost 30 years ago, a 20-year-old suited up for a  NHL exhibition game. While that may sound insignificant, this night stands out in history as it was the first time a woman played for any of the major North American sports leagues.

That night, Manon took the ice for one period as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s goalie, adding on to her already glass shattering resumé — in 1984, she became the first female goaltender for a boy’s international hockey tournament.

Manon’s playing career culminated with an Olympic silver medal at the 1998 Winter Games.

Her impact on the ice is still felt today, as she recalled to NHL.com, “Through the years, having so many people come up to me, telling me that I inspired their daughter or son, or someone saying, ‘I had your poster on my wall,’ that makes me realize my story impacted a lot of people in a positive way.”

 

SARAH THOMAS

 

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History was made on February 7, 2021. Among the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs who took the field in Super Bowl LV was referee Sarah Thomas.

While this marked the first time a woman officiated a Super Bowl, it isn’t the first time she made history in the sport. Sarah became the first permanent female referee in the NFL back in 2015, the first female official in a major college football game in 2007, and the first woman to referee a bowl game in 2009.

“It’s just so meaningful,” Sarah said on NFL.com“I never set out to be the first in any of this, but knowing the impact that I’m having on not just my daughter but young girls everywhere, women everywhere, when I get on that field, and I take it all in, I know that I’m probably gonna get a little teary eyed. It’s just remarkable, and I’m truly honored and humbled to be a part of this year’s Super Bowl crew.”

We’re inspired by Sarah’s boundary breaking work ethic and can’t wait to see where her career takes her.

 

There has never been a better time to get involved in sports at any level. A new generation of players, coaches, referees, and managers are reinvigorating some of the world’s oldest games and we can’t wait to see what happens next.