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Trailblazing Female Athletes and Coaches Celebrated at Women’s Sports Foundation’s 38th Annual Salute to Women in Sports

The Women's Sports Foundation's 38th Annual Salute To Women in Sports Awards Gala on October 18, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Women's Sports Foundation (PRNewsfoto/Women's Sports Foundation)
The Women’s Sports Foundation’s 38th Annual Salute To Women in Sports Awards Gala on October 18, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Women’s Sports Foundation (PRNewsfoto/Women’s Sports Foundation)

On Wednesday night, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF)—the leading authority on the participation of women and girls in athletics — hosted the biggest night in women’s sports at its 38thAnnual Salute to Women in Sports awards gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

WSF Founder Billie Jean King and WSF President Grete Eliassen were among the high-profile and accomplished attendees at the gala, co-presented by Chevrolet, espnW, FOX Networks Group, Gatorade and NBC Sports Group. They were joined by notable athletes such as Gabrielle Douglas (Gymnastics), Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating), Laurie Hernandez (Gymnastics), Heather Mitts (Soccer), Ibtihaj Muhammad (Fencing), Alana Nichols (Paralympic Alpine Skiing), Chiney Ogwumike (Basketball), Benita Fitzgerald Mosley (Track & Field), and Ilana Kloss (Tennis).

The WSF’s coveted 2017 Sportswoman of the Year award was given to 14-time World Championships gold medalist and 14-time USA Swimming national champion, Katie Ledecky (Swimming) in the individual sport category; two-time Olympic medalist and four-time WNBA champion Maya Moore (Basketball) in the team sport category. The award is presented to athletes who have exhibited supreme athletic performance over the past year and distinguished themselves in their sport. Past winners include Abby Wambach (Soccer), Simone Biles (Gymnastics) and Venus and Serena Williams (Tennis).

The Billie Jean King Leadership Award, an honor that recognizes an individual or group who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and made significant contributions to the advancement of women through achievements in sport and the workplace, was awarded to former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice for her extraordinary career in academia and public service. The 2017 U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team was honored with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award for their landmark fight for equitable treatment.

“This year marks the 45th anniversary of the landmark legislation, Title IX, and now, more than ever, it is critical for us all to be united in continuing to uphold and support the rights that it provides to all people, not only student-athletes,” said Women’s Sports Foundation Founder Billie Jean King. “As we come together tonight to celebrate the groundbreaking achievements and progress made in women’s sports this year, let’s continue to look forward and work smarter and harder for women and girls in sports each day.”

Accomplished ESPN commentator and three-time Olympic medalist soccer champion Julie Foudy and ESPN analyst and two-time Olympic softball medalist Jessica Mendoza co-hosted the event. The evening opened with the inspiring Grand March of Athletes with more than 70 World Champions, Olympians and Paralympians representing an array of sports, abilities, and backgrounds. The gala also paid special tribute to Tara VanDerveerStanford University women’s basketball head coach who reached 1,000 NCAA career coaching victories in 2017.

Grete Eliassen, WSF President, four-time U.S. Open champion and six-time Winter X Games freestyle skiing medalist, took the stage in her first Salute as President. Eliassen shared with the attendees the ongoing initiatives that WSF has focused on in the past year, including the Athlete Leadership Connection, an umbrella initiative that provides champion athletes and student-athletes with mentorship, career guidance and professional training.

“The Women’s Sports Foundation is dedicated to empowering girls in sports and supporting the community programs doing the ground work to support and create tomorrow’s leaders,” said Grete Eliassen, President of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “I am immensely proud to be part of such a strong network of female athletes, coaches and businesswomen that has positively impacted the lives of millions of girls and female athletes through research, grants and advocacy.”

Award recipients include (full bios available here):

  • Team Sportswoman of the Year: Maya Moore, Basketball, USA 
  • Individual Sportswoman of the Year: Katie Ledecky, Swimming, USA 
  • Billie Jean King Leadership Award: Condoleezza Rice, PhD
  • Wilma Rudolph Courage Award: The 2017 United States Women’s National Hockey Team

About Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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