In honor of International Women’s Day, which is celebrated annually on March 8, we asked Team USA athletes to share with us the women who have had a meaningful impact on their lives. See which athletes gushed about the legends in their sport and which ones chose the women who raised them to be the strong, confident, record-breaking athletes they are today – their mom. Who are you celebrating on this international day of women?
1) Jessica Long, Para Swimming
My mom is the strongest woman I know. To love me — a baby that she adopted from a Russian orphanage and raised — speaks volumes. She inspires me daily to pursue my dreams with a kind and humble heart. She loves me regardless of my place in swimming. I hope to be half as strong as her.
2) Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Ice Hockey
I first learned of Cammi Granato [captain of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team that won gold at the Olympic Winter Games Nagano 1998] when I was 7 years old. It was at a time when I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t know that girls could play hockey. I didn’t know there was such a thing as the women’s national team, or women’s hockey in the Olympics. And when I met Cammi I just remember how she made me feel so empowered to want to go to the Olympic Games and chase this dream that lasted until I made the Olympic team in 2014.
I’ll always remember the text I received from her after we won the gold medal in 2018 saying congratulations and she’s so proud of me. That one put me into tears because it was her who fueled my dream to want to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal for Team USA. So 20 years later to be getting a text from the person who fueled me to want to do this was pretty cool.
3) Noah Lyles, Track and Field
When I was younger I was diagnosed with chronic asthma and my mom would spend countless hours in the night trying to help me. We would also go to the hospital multiple times and we formed a really strong bond from a young age. Going through high school my mom was a single parent and it was just her and I and my brother for a while, so the three of us formed a connection and a bond through a time when it was mostly hard. Now my brother and I have turned pro, and my mom is our manager because we decided we couldn’t do it without her. She’s the person I look up to when it comes to life advice, when it comes to getting through tough times and being happy.
4) Jessica Mendoza, Softball
The woman who has had a meaningful impact on my life is Billie Jean King, for sure. She’s been a huge mentor for me. Her obvious standard that she’s set since the ‘70s — pushing for equality — but more importantly, staying true to who you are. She stands out the most to me as someone not trying to blend, but really truly understanding what it is to stand out and fight for the things that you believe in. The last five to seven years that I’ve gone more into the men’s sports space, she’s been there to really help and mentor me. And I’ve spent a lot of time with her just asking questions and getting help navigating.
5) Julia Krass, Freestyle Skiing
My mom is the reason I am who I am and the reason I am so strong. I think a big part of our story is how she has gone through breast cancer. Going through that has showed me how strong of a woman she is and how much you can overcome by fighting through everything and just having a positive outlook on everything. She is totally clear now, but six years ago when she was going through the whole process she was like, I’m going to beat this and I’m not going to let this affect the life that I’m living now.
6) Allyson Felix, Track and Field
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is a mentor, a friend and a role model. I met her when I was 19 years old, she was my coach’s wife and she’s been someone for me to look to for advice as I’ve gone through my career. She’s been a constant source of encouragement as far as inspiration and knowledge about track and field — and also how to deal with her husband as a coach. She’s really changed the way I see myself as a professional and as an athlete, and someone who wants to give back and have an impact in my community as well. She is obviously one of the greatest athletes that we’ve seen, but she’s just an incredible person. You can see that by the way she interacts with people and how thoughtful she is, and how she does so much. Those are all characteristics I hope to have, and that part of her life has definitely been an example for me.
7) Erin Hamlin, Luge
My mom will always take the cake on being the woman that has had the most meaningful impact on me. My entire life she has been a phenomenal example of hard work, compassion, dedication, and also the foundation of my support system. Not only has she been a great example of what to strive for as a human being, she lives life to the fullest more than anyone I know and always makes it a point to passionately enjoy what she is doing — something I think everyone can take a cue from.
8) Meghan Duggan, Ice Hockey
Aside from my mother, who will always be the most important woman in my life, and who has made and will continue to make such an impact in my life, I’d have to say 1998 Olympian Gretchen Ulion (now Silverman) and the rest of her teammates from that gold-medal-winning team. Those women changed the landscape for young girls across America, who could now dream of representing their country in the Olympics. They lit a fire in our hearts, gave us role models, and showed us that we too can win a gold medal as long as we are willing to work for it and keep dreaming big. I will forever be thankful for the time when I was 10 years old and I got to meet Gretchen and she put her medal around my neck; it inspired me more than I could have ever imagined.
9) Maddie Mastro, Snowboarding
Growing up, my mom always taught me if something is wrong we speak up and do what’s right. She taught me to be a strong, independent woman. That was always something that always stuck with me, how strong and independent my mom is. She skied all her life and decided to try something new and switched to snowboarding when she was in her late 40s. She was always trying new things and being independent about it. I recently went snowboarding with her — we had a girls’ weekend in Mammoth and she ripped around on one of the coolest snowboards ever, and was so sick on it.