As TeamUSA.org celebrates Women of Team USA Week, as part of Women’s History Month, here’s a look at 10 of the countless female athletes everyone should look up to – for their contributions on and off the field of play – and why.
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1. Meryl Davis, Figure Skating
The two-time Olympian and three-time medalist might have decided not to pursue the 2018 Olympics, but that doesn’t mean she is through inspiring others to join her sport. The first ice dancer to win Olympic gold — alongside her partner, Charlie White — joined forces with Figure Skating in Detroit as a mentor. The program, which is based off Figure Skating in Harlem, is meant to inspire young girls of color, teaching them about skating and finding their passion in life. Davis is so inspired by her passion that she set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for helmets for the program’s launch.
2. Vonetta Flowers, Bobsled
The first African American to win gold at the Winter Games never thought she’d become an Olympian in bobsled. In college she was a star sprinter and long jumper and had aspirations of making the U.S. Olympic Team for a summer Games. But after coming up short several times, she found success as a bobsled brakewoman. Thanks to Flowers paving the way, the U.S. women’s bobsled team has since featured several African-American track and field standouts, including Olympians Lauryn Williams and Lolo Jones.
3. Mia Hamm, Soccer
Hamm is one of the greatest female athletes of all time, but not just for the records she’s created and broken on the soccer field. In addition to her work promoting fitness amongst kids, the two-time Olympic gold medalist founded the Mia Hamm Foundation, which she started after her brother died from complications of anemia. Every year in Los Angeles, she holds a soccer game to support the foundation aimed at raising funds and awareness for bone marrow/core blood transplants.
4. Kayla Harrison, Judo
When the first U.S. Olympic gold medalist in judo gets asked to speak at an event, you would think it would be to talk about her accomplishments on the mat. But the majority of the time, two-time Olympic champion and motivational speaker Kayla Harrison shares stories about how she overcame being the victim of sexual abuse by her coach at a very young age. Because of that traumatic event, Harrison started the Fearless Foundation, an organization aimed at shining a light on the darkness that is child sexual abuse and helping enrich the lives of survivors.
5. Tatyana McFadden, Paralympic Track And Field
Born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down, the 17-time Paralympic medalist spent her first six years in a Russian orphanage before being adopted and brought to the U.S. Now the 27-year-old is not only the top wheelchair racer in the world, but in 2014 she returned to her birth country to win a silver medal in cross-country skiing in front of her family and biological mother. And the jack-of-all-trades also clinched all four major marathons for the past four years — the first person — able-bodied or otherwise — to achieve that feat.
6. Ibtihaj Muhammad, Fencing
Muhammad made headlines when she qualified for the 2016 Olympic team, as she would become the first American to compete in hijab at the Olympics, and again when she won bronze in team saber. But what she’s done off the field of play has been equally newsworthy. In addition to becoming a sports ambassador and speaking around the world about the importance of sports and education, in 2014 she launched a clothing company with the help of her siblings hoping to provide a more modest look to the fashion industry.
7. Melissa Stockwell, Paratriathlon
The first female soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq War was also the first Iraq veteran to compete at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. While in China — where she was chosen to be the Team USA flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony — she competed in three Paralympic swimming events. Eight years later, she won bronze in paratriathlon’s debut in Rio. When she wasn’t competing on behalf of her country, Stockwell served for almost 10 years on the board of directors of the Wounded Warrior Project.
8. Hannah Teter, Snowboarding
The three-time Olympian has a gold and silver medal, but her charity work stands out just as much as her snowboarding skills. In addition to starting Hannah’s Gold, which raises money to build schools and provide fresh water to a village in Kenya, the 30-year-old is also a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics. Teter — whose older brother has intellectual disabilities — is competing in the Special Olympics Winter World Games along with her friend and X Games teammate Daina Shilts. After finding out Shilts might have to turn down the invitation to represent the U.S. in Austria, Teter created a GoFundMe page to help her raise the fiance her trip.
9. Dara Torres, Swimming
The oldest U.S. Olympic swimmer — who at the age of 41 won three Olympic medals — is a legend in and out of the pool. The first swimmer to represent the U.S. at five Olympics — medaling at all five — retired from the sport more than eight years ago, but that doesn’t keep her out of the pool. For years the 12-time medalist has been swimming for the non-profit Swim Across America, which hosts benefit swim events in order to raise money for cancer research.
10. Serena Williams, Tennis
When you think of tennis, one name easily comes to mind: Serena. After more than two decades in the game and 23 Grand Slam wins, she now holds more Grand Slam titles than any player in the Open era. As the highest paid female athlete of 2016 — she earned almost $30 million in prize money and endorsements last year — she gives back by way of The Serena Williams Fund, which has two goals: creating equity through education and assisting victims of senseless violence. She lost her older sister in 2003 to a drive-by shooting.