In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. just won the finals against the Netherlands for their fourth Women’s World Cup. I’m currently studying abroad in England and the most patriotic I have ever felt is standing in a pub, cheering for amazing women in sports for the first time.
As part of the recent season, captain Megan Rapinoe and the rest of her team, all top female athletes, have become national sports heroes. Megan Rapinoe herself has become an international star for her inspiring leadership and provocative feminist statements against President Trump. In a recent interview with CNN, she said that Trump’s message was exclusionary and talked about the importance of protest.
Megan has become a sports hero, especially because of the pay gap that exists between the women’s soccer team and men’s. The New York parade for the team featured chants and posters advocating for equal pay, and the team currently has a lawsuit pending against the United States Soccer Federation to change the pay scale for women in sports. The conflict has become a microcosm for parity across the United States and the world.
The case of the U.S. women’s soccer team itself shows how sports have the power to unite people as well as to create a platform for political statements, and women in sports have been fighting for equality in so many ways the last few years. Knowing the names of these women gives them a platform. So now that you love Megan Rapinoe (and the entire US women’s team) check out these other amazing female athletes!
The youngest person to ever qualify for the main draw at Wimbledon, Cori “Coco” Gauff was already a sports hero. And then she beat Venus Williams. Only 15, she is already an inspiration to girls everywhere. She began playing at age six after being inspired by Serena Williams. Eventually eliminated after a match with Simona Halep at Wimbledon, Coco is now projected to make over one million dollars in sponsorships in 2019. In addition to her incredible success, she’s also incredibly endearing: she loves Ariana Grande and last Halloween, she dressed as Thor, Goddess of Thunder. Young and thriving, she is a rising star to watch and root for, sure to one day be a top female athlete.
McLaughlin is a rising star in Track and Field. As an Olympic athlete and absolutely beautiful human being, she’s got star power. After competing in the Rio Olympics in 2016, she already holds multiple records across the US and the world. In 2018 alone, McLaughlin won first place in the 400-meter dash at the Southeastern Conference Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championships, as well first in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Women’s Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Definitely projected to return to the Olympics in 2020, she currently is signed to the New Balance team.
Another young Olympian, Simone competed at Rio in 2016 and became the first black woman to win an individual gold in swimming. After becoming a top female athlete—winning two gold and two silver Olympic medals—Simone now has a net worth of over three million dollars and attends Stanford University. Most inspiring of all in her work as a sports hero is how making competitive swimming more inclusive. In her contract with the brand Tyr Sport, she demanded an inclusion rider, stipulating that the brand work to be inclusive and provide opportunities for underrepresented folks in swimming. A definite must-read is her letter to her younger self, where she discusses facing racism in the sports community and fighting for her dreams.
Sofia Kenin, though without the same name recognition as Coco Gauff, also competed at Wimbledon this year. A powerhouse player, she has scored two titles this year and stands poised for a long career in tennis. After facing one of her idols, Tatjana Maria in the 2017 US Open, she decided to go professional. Her father is her biggest cheerleader, but perhaps the most adorable of their family are their dogs, who feature in her Instagram. She dreams big and hopes to someday be the Number One tennis player in the world, offering an amazing model for all women in sports trying to achieve their dreams.
The power of these top female athletes is hard to overstate. Defying stereotypes and fighting for justice, female sports professionals and sports heroes like Megan Rapinoe and her team have long been underrepresented and underpaid. But with the rising success and increased spotlight on so many, the future looks bright and these women in sports offer inspiration to everyone across the world to fight for their goals and their rights.