“History looks different with the contributions of women included.”
As you may or may not know, March is a month dedicated to celebrating the contributions and achievements that women have made throughout history. Celebrated in America for the past 34 years, the federal government chose the month of March to honor and recognize the importance of women in society. It began as solely a “National Women’s Day” celebrated on March 8th and eventually turned into Women’s History Month in 1987. Not only does this month reflect on and honor women in past generations and their bravery that afforded the freedoms and opportunities that women have today, but it is also a month to honor all of the amazing women and leaders today.
I selected a few female athletes who stood out to me this past year. These women demonstrated leadership, bravery, resilience, and perseverance, which ultimately led them to succeed and inspire.
Here are only some of the most influential female athletes from the last few years:
Naomi Osaka is a professional Tennis player who is 22 years old and represents Japan. She has won numerous international tennis games, including the US Open, Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon. This ultimately led her to become the first-ever Asain tennis player ranked No. 1 by the Women’s Tennis Association. There is no question that her athletic ability is inspiring. Osaka uses her platform to discuss and destigmatize mental health, opening up about her personal experiences. Along with speaking up for herself, she continued to fight for justice by wearing masks honoring the seven black people killed this past year in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Osaka showed the world that you could be the best at what you do and still face and conquer obstacles.
Sunsia Lee is eighteen years old, attends Auburn University, and is a USA women’s national gymnastics team member. In the 2020 Summer Olympics, Lee won a gold medal in the all-around competition (the greatest prize in the sport). However, this gold medal means more than just a win. It was a historic moment for her and the Hmong Community as she was the first Hmong American Olympian. Suni Lee made how strong her culture and community were throughout her carer in interviews. Her pride carried over into her performance as a gymnast. Suni Lee demonstrates how anything is possible and is inspiring to many people worldwide.
Twenty-six-year-old US alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin attended her third Olympics this past winter. Although she is the most decorated US alpine skier of all time, she endured many challenges that led her to be as strong as she is today. Two years before her third Olympics, Mikaela’s father died in a tragic accident, and because of this incident, she questioned if she would ever ski again. Mikaela Shiffrin is ranked No. 1 globally and has had 13 victories over the past three seasons. Before this past winter Olympics, she missed over a week and a half of training due to having COVID and a back injury. However, she remained the world’s top-ranked female skier. However, she didn’t have the best performances (Beijing 2022). Her comeback story from a tragic loss in her family, being injured, then testing positive for COVID while training, is remarkable.
“I’ve learned to be grateful for those in your corner whether you win or lose,”
Sydney McLaughlin is a 22-year-old hurdler and sprinter on the US Olympic team. She was nationally recognized through high school, ran at the University of Kentucky for one year, and turned pro in 2018 when she signed a deal with New Balance. She made her Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Games when she was only 17 years old, making her the youngest Olympic track and field athlete since 1972. This past summer Olympics, 2020 Tokyo Games, Sydney ran the world record and won a gold medal running the 400-meter hurdles in 51.46 seconds. While being one of the fastest runners of all time, Sydney preaches gratitude and God.
An honorable mention to Dalilah Muhammad, another US hurdler, sprinter, and a mother of two, won silver to Sydney McLaughlin in the same race, also breaking (her) world record by .04 seconds. McLaughlin likes to say that “Iron shapes iron” when she and Muhammad are racing.
Many other female athletes not mentioned above have been influential and inspiring over the past few years. These women highlighted before are standouts because not only are they successful and significant athletes, they value essential things and use their platform to share their stories and educate others. For instance, Suni Lee and Mikeala Shiffrin use social media to reveal their real mental health, breaking the taboo and showing that mental health is universal. These athletes were also open about struggles and setbacks and had strong comebacks, displaying perseverance. These are all things that younger girls, athletes, and people should look up to.
However, all women, athlete or not, make history daily and have impacted the world (and continue to) since the beginning of civilization. Although March is dedicated to celebrating women and their history, women should celebrate their growth and success every day.