By: Kaytlyn Poberznick
International Women’s Day calls for recognition to all the women who have impacted the world of sports. From those who have played the game to those who have refereed it, they’ve all managed to be an influence to those watching.
These are women who have had groundbreaking success and continue to be shining lights that pave the way for the future.
Serena Williams is one of the most decorated female tennis players ever to play the game. Her impact has led females to see a strong woman of colour with a massive platform to showcase her talent and voice.
Williams broke barriers winning the Australian Open eight-weeks pregnant, sweeping each set against her big sister, Venus, in the finals. This not only proved how resilient, competitive, and genuinely remarkable the female body can be, but it shows that no matter what challenges are standing in the way, they can be overcome.
In 2019, Williams finally met her match against 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu in the U.S. Open. Andreescu won 6-3 and 7-5, taking away Williams’ chance at her 24th Grand Slam win, which would have tied Margaret Court’s record.
A Canadian soccer legend, Sinclair picked up a soccer ball at the age of four, and the rest is history. She made the provincial under-14 team at the age of 11 and then began to play with Canada’s senior team in 2000 at 16-years-old. One could say she was born a prodigy in the sport, but Sinclair grew and worked on her talent to become a player who would score an outstanding 182 international career goals because of her dedication and passion for the game.
In Canada’s opening match at the 2011 World Cup, Sinclair broke her nose but was determined to continue playing. She slapped on a face mask and went on her way, declaring that nothing would stop her from playing in the World Cup. Tough is not a strong enough word to describe her impressive performance. That day, Sinclair scored the only goal her team could produce, losing 2-1 to Germany. The world already knew Sinclair had the heart of a champion. This display of character just solidified the statement.
History was made when Sarah Fuller stepped on the field as a player in a Power 5 conference football game for Vanderbilt. She kicked off the start to the second half, but that wasn’t enough for her. She would join the team a second time to make an impressive 22-yard field goal kick after Vanderbilt’s touchdown.
Although the team lost 41-0 in her first appearance, there was nothing but joy for the Commodores that game, knowing whether they won or lost, one of their players would make history. Fuller repped a custom-made helmet with the words ‘Play Like A Girl’ on the back to publicize the nonprofit organization Play Like A Girl, which encourages young girls to play sports and get exposure to STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology & Mathematics) opportunities.
Fuller’s extra point made her the first woman to score in a top-level college football game since April Gross kicked for Ken State in 2015.
A woman of many talents and skills. Sue Bird flew to new heights to show what women’s basketball is all about. Bird was a first-round number one pick in 2002. She was selected by Seattle Storm and has continued to play an outstanding 18 seasons with the franchise, and hopefully, a few more to come.
It’d be time-consuming to list off everything this woman has accomplished in the WNBA. Not only is she the all-time leader in career starts, meaning in her 18 years of playing in the WNBA she’s never been a bench player, but she’s managed to be an 11-time WNBA All-Star, the first time being her rookie year.
The WNBA has been a platform for many firsts. One of which is Basketball Hall-Of-Famer Lisa Leslie defying gravity in the world of women’s basketball, being the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game, the same year Sue Bird was drafted. Needless to say, that was a good year for the league.
Whether you’re for team USA or not, Simone Biles’ athleticism and poise cannot be denied. She never disappoints to bring home the gold. Representing her country and the female and black communities, Biles has managed to top the charts with 25 World medals over her career, the most won by any gymnast. She’s won nineteen gold, three silver, and three bronze medals, if you were curious, all by the age of 23.
If it weren’t for a field trip to a gymnastics studio with her daycare as a child, the world might have never witnessed her greatness. What a shame that would’ve been.
When the topic of football is talked about, the conversation tends to take a turn to ‘male-dominated,’ but women in the sport should also be normalized. Whether that be Sarah Fuller and other girls wanting to play the sport or Sarah Thomas reffing the biggest game of the year.
Thomas has been an ample light for female refs in multiple stages of her journey. Paying her dues and reffing all the way up to be the first full-time woman ref in the National Football League. She is only one of two women officials in the NFL after the hiring of Maia Chaka to join her next season. This marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a big inspiration to girls everywhere.
There’s still a long uphill climb for women to receive equality on the court, pitch, or even in the office. But having strong, independent, hard-working women like this to lead paths for those who follow makes it a lot easier for women’s voices to be heard.
Every day is International Women’s Day.