NEW YORK, Oct. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Women's Sports Foundation (WSF)—the leading authority on the participation of women and girls in sports— celebrated the biggest night in female sports at its 36th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
WSF Founder Billie Jean King and WSF President Angela Hucles were among the high-profile attendees who honored the top nominees; representing 18 sports and six different countries including Simone Biles (Gymnastics), Kelly Clark (Snowboarding), Anna Fenninger (Alpine Skiing), Maya Moore (Basketball), Inbee Park (Golf), Maggie Steffens (water polo), Lauren Chamberlain (Softball), and Talita Antunes and Larissa França (Beach Volleyball). Notable athletes in attendance included Tamika Catchings (Basketball), Meryl Davis (Ice Dancing), Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating), Angela Ruggiero (Ice Hockey), Julie Foudy (Soccer), Jessica Mendoza (Softball) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Track and Field).
The Women's Sports Foundation's coveted 2015 Sportswoman of the Year award was presented to Serena Williams (Tennis) in the individual category; Carli Lloyd (Soccer) in team category. The award is bestowed upon athletes who have distinguished themselves in their sports field through their supreme athletic performances over the past year.
Eleven-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden (Track & Field, Cross-Country Skiing) was honored with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award. McFadden has defied obstacles since she was a young girl to become one of the most dominant athletes in Paralympic Track & Field and Cross-Country Skiing, while also advocating for equal access for students with disabilities. Tatyana and her mother helped pass Maryland Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act (2005) that mandates that schools provide competitive opportunities for students with disabilities in interscholastic athletic programs.
The Billie Jean King Contribution Award, an honor that recognizes an individual or organization who has made a significant contribution to the development and advancement of women's sports, was awarded to Dr. Don Sabo, Ph.D. a Professor of Health Policy at D'Youville College. Dr. Sabo's pioneering research is a catalyst for the advancement of girls and women in sports and uncovers the lifelong benefits of participation on their health and well-being.
"Forty-one years ago we founded an organization to recognize the accomplishments of the world's greatest women athletes just like we are doing here at tonight's Salute," said WSF Founder Billie Jean King. "We have seen great momentum and breakthroughs this past year for female athletes, coaches and commentators and we came together tonight to celebrate those moments, and to commemorate the impact the Foundation has on women and girls each and every day."
Julie Foudy and Jessica Mendoza opened the fundraising gala, beginning with a celebratory toast to Jessica's historic achievement of becoming the first female in-game analyst for an MLB game on ESPN in August. The evening then proceeded with the traditional Grand March of Athletes where all 75 athletes in attendance were honored for their contributions to their sports.
Angela Hucles, WSF President, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist for U.S. Soccer, two-time World Cup Bronze Medalist, took the stage in her first Salute as President to discuss the ongoing initiatives that WSF has focused on in the past year, specifically showcasing the Sports 4 Life program. Sports 4 Life is a national effort to increase the participation and retention of African-American and Hispanic girls in youth sports programs. By making sports more accessible, Sports 4 Life gives young females the chance to learn the foundational benefits of sports, such as leadership, confidence, self-esteem, and perseverance. This year, WSF awarded $110,000 in funding to 22 grantees to serve more than 6,800 middle and high school girls across the nation. All of the money raised in the room this evening will go towards 2016 grants, which is now accepting applications for the coming year.
"The Women's Sports Foundation is dedicated to creating leaders by giving girls access to sports. With support from the community, who is on the ground activating, to the corporations who support our mission by making it financially realizable, we are able to collaborate, educate and advocate for more opportunities and exposure for girls' and women's sports," shared Deborah Slaner Larkin, CEO of the WSF. "We are privileged to host the Annual Salute so we can gain new ambassadors and spread awareness about our mission to ensure all girls have the chance to play."
The 36th Annual Salute to Women in Sports was co-presented by espnW, FOX Sports, Gatorade and NBC Sports Group.
Award recipients at the Women's Sports Foundation's 36th Annual Salute to Women in Sports:
Carli Lloyd, Winner of the Sportswoman of the Year Award (Team Sport)
In July 2015, Carli Lloyd led the U.S. Women's National Team (USWNT) to victory at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, a win that gave the team more World Cup titles than any other country. She completed the fastest hat trick in Women's World Cup final history to propel the United States to a 5-2 victory over Japan. She helped get the team to the Final game by connecting on a penalty kick that put the U.S. ahead of Germany in the semifinal game at the Women's World Cup.
Past winners include Meryl Davis, Candace Parker, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Venus and Serena Williams, Jessica Mendoza and Lisa Leslie.
Serena Williams, Winner of the Sportswoman of the Year Award (Individual Sport)
No stranger to victory, Serena Williams is currently ranked No. 1 by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), won the women's singles at Wimbledon in July 2015 and clinches the win for the women's singles at the French open in 2015 as well. With her victory at the French Open on June 6, 2015, Serena Williams became the first woman in the Open Era to win 50 matches at all four of the Grand Slams and became the third player in tennis history to win 20 Grand Slam titles. Earlier this year, she won the ESPY Award for Best Female Tennis Player and is the first person since 2001 to win the Australian Open and the French Open in one year.
Past winners include Simone Biles, Missy Franklin, Yani Tseng, Erin Popovich, Natalie Coughlin, Michelle Kwan and Gail Devers.
The Sportswoman of the Year Award is presented to athletes who exhibit exceptional performances over a 12-month period. Finalists were selected and voted on by the public and the Women's Sports Foundation's Awards Committee.
Tatyana McFadden, Recipient of the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award
At just 15, Tatyana claimed a silver (100m) and bronze medal (200m) at the 2004 Paralympic Games. At the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, at just 19 years old, McFadden posted stunning performances that earned her four more Paralympic medals. In London, in 2012, she led the competition in the 400m, 800m and 1500m events, winning three gold medals and four overall. Until 2009, McFadden specialized in shorter distance track sprints. She entered the Chicago Marathon in 2009 as a lark and triumphed at the finish line—the first of a series of marathon victories. She has since twice swept the Grand Slam of wheelchair marathon racing, winning titles in Boston, London, Chicago and New York in a single season. In total, McFadden is a 14-time major marathon winner and an 11-time Paralympic medalist in both track and field and cross-country skiing. She is an ESPY Award finalist and the 2015 Laureus Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.
The Wilma Rudolph Courage Award is presented to a female athlete who exhibits extraordinary courage in her athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as an inspiration and role model for others. This award was first given in 1996 to Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Don Sabo, Recipient of the Billie Jean King Contribution Award
Don Sabo is the winner of the 2015 Billie Jean King Contribution Award, and has been an integral part of pushing Women's Sports Foundation's research for more than 25 years. Dr. Sabo is a Professor Emeritus in Health Policy at D'Youville College, where he founded and directs the Center for Research on Physical Activity, Sport & Health (CRPASH). Formerly the Research Director of the Women's Sports Foundation, he now serves as the Senior Health Policy Advisor. Professor Sabo is considered one of the leading empirical researchers in the United States on girls and women in sport, especially as related to youth sports, education and health, and the struggle for gender equity in athletics.
He has directed and/or co-authored many nationwide research reports, including Uncovering the Sport Pipeline: Participation and Attrition among Adolescents in U.S. Sports (in progress, 2014), More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health (2013), The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports (2012), Progress Without Equity: The Provision of High School Athletic Opportunity in the United States, by Gender 1993-94 through 2005-06 (2011), Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America (2008), Her Life Depends On It: Physical Activity and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls (2004), Health Risks and the Teen Athlete (2000), The Women's Sports Foundation Report: Sport and Teen Pregnancy (1998), The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Report: Physical Activity & Sport in the Lives of Girls (1997), The Women's Sports Foundation Gender Equity Report Card: A Survey of Athletic Opportunity in American Higher Education (1997), Race, Ethnicity, and Nation in Televised International Athletic Events (1995), Sports and Fitness in the Lives of American Working Women (1993), and The Women's Sports Foundation Report: Minorities in Sport (1989).
The Billie Jean King Contribution Award is presented to an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the development and advancement of women's sports in general and to the Women's Sports Foundation specifically and/or who has, through personal achievements or influence, inspired girls and women to become more responsible in their own health through sport, fitness or physical activity. The award is earned by the demonstration of a continuing, lasting commitment and dedication to the growth of sports, fitness and physical activity for women and girls. The award, given since 1980, is presented each year at the Annual Salute to Women in Sports. Past winners include Tegla Loroupe, Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), Birch Bayh, Michelle Kwan and Robin Roberts.
About The Women's Sports Foundation
The Women's Sports Foundation — the leading authority on the participation of women and girls in sports — is dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring girls access to sports. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, our work shapes public attitude about women's sports and athletes, builds capacities for organizations that get girls active, ensures equal opportunities for girls and women, and supports physically and emotionally healthy lifestyles. The Women's Sports Foundation has relationships with more than 1,000 of the world's elite female athletes and is recognized globally for its leadership, vision, expertise and influence. For more information, visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org. Follow us: www.Facebook.com/WomensSportsFoundation or on Twitter @WomensSportsFdn.
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Women's Sports Foundation
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SOURCE The Women's Sports Foundation