Women’s Sports Foundation Big Ups Three Women Who Made The World Better This Year | Naomi Osaka, Allyson Felix & Jordan Larson

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Track and field star Allyson Felix became America’s most decorated Olympic track and field athlete ever in August by capturing her 11th Olympic medal in the final event of her illustrious career. For her exploits, Felix was named Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Felix bounced back from her breakup with Nike over their treatment of pregnant athletes, which she experienced first-hand.

When Felix was pregnant Nike tried to cut her deal by 70 percent. She dropped the brand like a bad habit and became a voice for the voiceless by unveiling her own sneaker and lifestyle brand called Saysh.

Felix is also the most decorated track and field athlete in World Championship history as well with 12 medals, as she passed the great Usain Bolt.

 

The Tokyo Games marked Felix’s first as a mother and fifth overall, and she shared some thoughts on her journey back to the track during the Olympic Trials in June.

“Today I thought about all the things,” Felix said. “I thought about us fighting in the NICU, fighting for me and my daughter’s life. Whatever happened, I just knew to give all glory to the most high.”

In 2018, Felix underwent an emergency cesarean section and gave birth to her daughter two months early. At birth daughter Camryn, who Felix said weighed only three pounds at birth, would then spend 29 days in the NICU. A warrior child born to an incredible mother who only knows how to push forward and break new ground.

Jordan Larson

Larson helped lead the USA national volleyball team to Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games. It took 12 years and three Olympiads for Larson to finally get that elusive gold medal, which was the only thing missing from the former Nebraska Cornhusker great’s career résumé.

That feat earned her the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year for team sport on Wednesday.

The leadership displayed by the 34-year-old veteran can be compared to the inspirational guidance soccer greats Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd have provided the distinguished United States Women’s tational Team.

It was doubtful that Larson would return to the Olympics after the 2020 Tokyo Games were postponed one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she was intent on leading Team USA to its first-ever Olympic gold.

It had been 57 years (1964) since U.S. women’s volleyball won gold in Olympic competition, which also came in Tokyo. That drought came to an end with Larson earning accolades for Tournament MVP and Best Outside Hitter.

After winning the elusive gold, Larson was visibly emotional.

“I’ve cried more in the last 24 hours than I have in my entire career,” Larson said after winning the gold. “I’m not an emotional player, not an emotional person. But I think emotions got the best of me, and now I’m in this euphoria shock-state.”

Naomi Osaka 

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka was the recipient of the “Wilma Rudolph Courage Award.”

After throwing herself into the middle of the social justice revolution that was taking place in 2020 by wearing seven masks in seven days with the names of Black victims of police violence during the US Open, Osaka brought attention to mental health issues as she announced she wouldn’t do post-match interviews at the 2021 French Open due to anxiety and depression.

She received a ton of backlash and was even fined $15,000. The French Open committee even threatened to expel her from the tourney for not participating in post-match pressers.

Osaka showed courage in announcing her battle with mental illness and then walking away from the tourney when she felt enough was enough. Her choice led to a larger conversation about how athletes are perceived in society.

Although shy and introverted to an extent, Osaka knows how maneuver as a mixed-race woman athlete in the limelight.

“I got the courage just to speak out growing up and seeing all of the people around me doing amazing things. And not having any fear and standing up for what they believe in.”

These women deserve to be celebrated because they acheived extraordinary heights in 2021.