Other Opinions · Twin Trio Takes

National Girls and Women in Sports Day: Athletes Who Inspire Us

National Girls and Women in Sports Day is a holiday that has been observed since the initial NGWSD in 1986. Per the NGWSD website, the day celebrates the “extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports.” As three women who have all been involved in sports at some point of our lives, we are fans of many girls and women in sports. To celebrate NGWSD, we decided to feature some of the women in sports whom we support and find to be great inspirations to not only us but girls and women worldwide.

Allie Quigley – Professional WNBA player for the Chicago Sky

Born and raised in Joliet, Illinois, fellow Illinois native Allie Quigley is a combo guard for the Chicago Sky known for her shooting ability. She has been in the WNBA since 2008 and has proven that you become older and still be an effective impactful basketball player. She was named the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year two years in a row in 2014 and 2015 and is a two-time All-Star, earning such honors in 2017 and 2018.

Quigley is also a two-time WNBA 3-Point Contest champion, winning the 2017 and 2018 contests. Even more impressive, during the 2018 competition, Quigley set a record for scoring the most points in a WNBA or NBA shooting contest.

Aly Raisman – Olympic gold medalist in artistic gymnastics

As fellow self-proclaimed 20-something-year-old grandmas, we love and relate to Raisman a lot. She’s a nap queen, and we all love a good nap — who doesn’t? Athletically, Raisman is a two-time Olympian, having won gold medals at the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games. Even more impressive, her performance at the 2016 Olympics was even better than in 2012, proving you can be over 20 years old and still be exceptional at elite gymnastics.

Outside of competition, the time and effort Raisman has put in to express the desire and need for change in wake of the sexual abuse scandal in USA Gymnastics is so inspiring. In addition, Raisman has also been vocal and proactive in promoting body positivity, especially in her work with Aerie.

Chloe Kim – Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding

After becoming the youngest woman to win Olympic halfpipe gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, then-17-year-old Chloe Kim quickly rose to fame. Kim may be a world class and elite athlete, but she’s actually quite relatable, which she showed during the 2018 Winter Olympics when she literally tweeted about food while competing at the biggest sports competition in the world.

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She even ate the ice cream she so desperately wanted while doing post-competition interviews. We wouldn’t want to wait to eat ice cream either!

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In addition to being totally relatable and loving food, there’s a side of Kim that isn’t as relatable but just adds to her greatness. She’s trilingual and is fluent in English, French, and Korean, which is awesome and a great skill to have and allows her to communicate with her family back in Korea. And to top it all off, she’s going to Princeton as part of the Class of 2023!

Imani McGee-Stafford – Professional WNBA player for the Atlanta Dream

McGee-Stafford is a center for the Atlanta Dream who has played three seasons in the WNBA. During her first season in 2016, she was named to 2016 NBA All-Rookie team. But what’s really inspiring about her is how she uses her platform to be a mental health advocate.

A fellow supporter of the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms, McGee-Stafford has struggled with depression throughout her life and uses poetry to cope and be open with her feelings. She has even written a poetry book, Notes In The Key of Heartbreak, that was published a year ago. Athletes are often seen as and expected to be strong, tough individuals, but this can be tough for those athletes who do have mental health struggles. They may be hesitant to appropriately address those concerns, because it makes them look like lesser athletes. But McGee-Stafford has proven that you can struggle with your mental health and still be a successful athlete.

Kerri Walsh Jennings – Olympic champion in beach volleyball

Walsh Jennings is known as one of the greatest volleyball players of all time, winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, and 2012) in beach volleyball with former teammate Misty May-Treanor. In addition, she competed in the Sydney 2000 Games for Team USA as part of the indoor volleyball team and won bronze in 2016 for beach with former teammate April Ross. No matter the sport, competing in five Olympic Games is no easy feat, and Walsh Jennings has  done that, proving that age is just a number.

And while she’s been competing as a professional volleyball player, she’s been able to start and raise a family, knowing that balance is important in any life. Last, but certainly not least, Walsh Jennings knows to make decisions that are best for herself and has become a girl boss out of it. After splitting ways with the professional beach volleyball circuit of AVP, she began her own beach volleyball tour known as p1440.

Leticia Bufoni – Professional skateboarder, X Games gold medalist

The U.S. is arguably the most dominant nation when it comes to sports, but there are female athletes from all around the globe that show the unstoppable power of women. Leticia Bufoni is a Brazilian professional skateboarder and X Games gold medalist who currently resides in southern California. Though she was born in Brazil, her dedication and passion for the sport of skateboarding brought her to the U.S., demonstrating that she’s not afraid to go after what she wants or to pursue her dreams.

In the realm of skateboarding, Bufoni is a trailblazer and one of the top female skaters in the world. She won the first Street League Women’s Super Crown title, making history. Bufoni is also one of only two female skaters sponsored by Nike and is the only female skater sponsored by Plan B, a top tier skateboard company who sponsors the likes of superstars Ryan Sheckler and formerly Paul Rodriguez. Not many female skaters have their own pro deck.

Maggie Nichols – World champion in artistic gymnastics, NCAA national champion

Although she isn’t an Olympian like the other gymnasts in this post, Nichols is just as exceptional and talented, in and out of the gym. Nichols helped Team USA win team gold at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, being the only gymnast to compete on every event in team finals (not even Simone Biles did that!), and also won a bronze medal on floor. She’s currently a superstar in college gymnastics, arguably the best all-around gymnast in the nation, and is the reigning NCAA All-Around Champion. To add to her accolades, she’s gotten a perfect 10.0 on every event ― twice!

Off the floor, she’s been an inspiring and courageous woman everyone can look up to. Nichols is known to be the first to report the abuse of Larry Nassar and revealed she is “Athlete A.” Along with hundreds of other survivors of Nassar’s abuse, Nichols received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2018 ESPY Awards. She also shares daily motivational and inspirational quotes on her Instagram that demonstrate her uplifting and optimistic personality. Nichols is not only talented on a beam but is someone embodies how powerful and inspirational girls and women can be on and off the competition floor.

Missy Franklin – Olympic champion in swimming

Franklin is well-known in the swimming world and for good reason. Her accomplishments, including multiple Olympic medals, are not the most interesting thing about her. She has a personality and smile that just lights up the room.

One of the most admirable things about Franklin is her commitment to doing what is best for herself―even when she has pressure to do something else. For instance, when she decided to swim at UC Berkeley for two years instead of immediately going pro after the London Olympics. She has also been extremely forthcoming about her own mental health struggles and has been monumental in pushing back against stigma. She is the kind of role model that every mother wishes for their daughter!

Sandi Morris – Olympic silver medalist in pole vault

Morris is an elite athlete who is incredibly down to earth, and it has been so enjoyable to follow her journey. While her “biggest” accomplishment was winning the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Games, what is more impressive is her graciousness and commitment to being the best athlete she can be.

She has always been super engaged and supportive of her fans and has, for years, been pushing the limits on how high women can vault. Outside of athletics, she is a huge animal lover and nature fanatic, and she has a variety of interesting hobbies and a quirky personality that keeps people laughing. 

Shalane Flanagan – Olympic marathoner

Talk about a role model! Flanagan has been an icon in women’s running for a long time, and she has cemented herself into long distance history with multiple American records. She is someone who everyone wants to root for and has overcome a lot of setbacks in terms of injuries and the belief that she’s “too old.”

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F4%k YEAH!!!!!! I’m heading back to NYC 🗽♥️ “When I think about returning to race in New York City, I’m flooded with magical memories. My heart skips a beat, I get butterflies in my stomach, and my palms get sweaty. New York City is incredibly special to me. It’s where I ran my first marathon in 2010, placing second, and of course, my dream come true moment in 2017 when I won the TCS New York City Marathon. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity, support, passion, and health to defend my title in 2018. I hope everyone preparing enjoys their journey to the start line and I look forward to celebrating with all the runners at the finish line on November 4th.” #TCSNYCmarathon #MovedMe 📷 @nyrr

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More importantly, she has been a very positive influence in the sport with her line of cookbooks encouraging athletes to eat more, not less. In a world that is fraught with eating disorders, Flanagan’s example to eat nourishing foods and not sacrifice taste is what sets her apart. When she won the 2017 New York City Marathon, before she crossed the finish line, she pumped her fist into the air and yelled “F*** yeah!”, the true definition of badass.

Simone Biles – Olympic gold medalist in artistic gymnastics

To put it simply, Biles is gymnastics’ GOAT (greatest of all time). She won five medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics with four of them being gold. Her four gold medals at the Rio Games set the U.S. record for most gold medals at a single Olympic Games, so it’s no wonder she’s included on this list. Biles is such a powerhouse in elite gymnastics that, even when she has mistakes, her talent and difficulty still make up for it decisively. What’s even more ridiculous is that, even with a year break from the sport, she returned to competition and continued to absolutely dominate and compete even harder skills and combinations—as if she had never even stopped training. Somehow, she’s also a better gymnast than before—who knew that was even possible?

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ONE HAPPY GIRL 🍕👅😍🙌🏾

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Biles, like us, is a fellow pizza lover, so she eats a lot of pizza like we do. But the difference is she can still do all the things better than everyone else in the world despite that.

Tatyana McFadden – Paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair racing

For those who know her, Tatyana’s story is incredible. She has overcome immense odds to become one of the most dominant wheelchair racers of all time. Despite being abandoned at a Russian orphanage at birth and paralyzed from the waist down, Tatyana become heavily involved in sports after being adopted and moving to the United States. She has never let any limitation stop her, and has been a consistent voice of inspiration for all.

Her accolades are numerous, ranging from multiple Olympic medals to being the victor of back-to-back high profile races. She also has a huge heart and is pursuing her graduate degree at our Alma Mater, the University of Illinois (go Illini!), and has also been a huge activist for the rights of disabled athletes.


Photo credit John Cheng

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