2012 Annual Salute to Women in Sports
A grand celebration of a grand year for women in sports. Perhaps nothing says it more than countless standing and rousing ovations throughout the evening to recognize legends, embrace emerging leaders, commemorate Title IX, and honor the best female athletes in our nation. From the glamorous red carpet to the Grand March of the athletes to a star-studded awards presentation, our Annual Salute to Women in Sports was the greatest celebration of women –and women in sports – of the year.
That’s what we’ll remember from our 2012 Annual Salute to Women in Sports: hundreds and hundreds of our biggest supporters, stars, and fans jumping to their feet: hands in high motion, to acknowledge truly great women and girls who made this year an unforgettable tribute to all we can achieve as athletes and women. And in fitting honor, a standing ovation for the man who authored the 37 words in Title IX that helped change the face of opportunity for us all, as athletes and as women: Senator Birch Bayh.
Senator Bayh’s leadership drove to fruition 40 years ago the tireless work of our founder, Billie Jean King, and the women including our past presidents who fought hard for the opportunity that all girls and women should have to participate in sports.
Tonight we honored those efforts and the stories of success they enabled:
- As 75 of the nation’s most accomplished female athletes marched across the stage, host Mary Carillo and ESPN commentator Julie Foudy proudly bragged achievements for women who represent great strength in sports across all categories. From team to individual, extreme sports to billiards, on the court or in the pool, on the track or on the course, we were proud to celebrate these women as the faces of athletic achievement and inspiration.
- Joined by two young and aspiring athletes from WSF’s GoGirlGo! program, WSF president Laila, acknowledged the Paralympians and Olympians still onstage as role models and inspirations for all that we do through the Foundation.
- Academy award winner Holly Hunter presented the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award to Kayla Harrison for her drive and determination to overcome sexual abuse by a former coach as a young girl to achieve her dream to be the best judoka. Kayla’s perseverance and talents delivered the first Olympic gold medal in judo for any American, male or female, ever.
- WSF founder Billie Jean King honored in absentia former Senator Birch Bayh with the Billie Jean King Contribution Award, thanking him for fighting for the rights of girls and women across the country to have equal access in school not just in sports, but in the classroom so we could become doctors, lawyers, scientists, educators … and achieve our potential in every way possible.
- Not passing the moment up, tennis great Chris Evert surprised Billie Jean King onstage, commending her efforts for the past 38 years in lifting up the Women’s Sports Foundation and asking us all to step in and help carry the torch forward for future generations.
-We raised the roof (almost literally) for our annual Sportswoman of the Year finalists. Olympians Benita Fitzgerald Mosley (WSF Chairwoman) and Donna de Varona (WSF former president) announced Alex Morgan as the recipient of the 2012 Sportswoman of the Year Award, Team Sport. And Olympian Nastia Liukin (2008 Sportswoman of Year Award) joined celebrity trainer Jeannette Jenkins to present the Sportswoman of the Year Award, Individual Sport, to Gabby Douglas. Gabby and Alex brought a nation together as they captured gold in gymnastics then soccer, captivating us with amazing athleticism, fierce confidence, and gentle poise that surrendered to magnificent smiles on a golden platform.
- And though it seemed nothing could be more inspirational than the journeys and achievements of each of the woman honored so far, golf legend Annika Sorenstam brought us all to our feet for one of the most tender moments when she presented the ANNIKA Inspiration Award to young Lianna Thomas, a 17 year old figure skating star who has already earned a presidential medal for service for her work mentoring young adoptees from China through her program, Ice Pandas.
The evening punctuated a year that has engaged the hearts and enthusiasm of millions of fans across continents. We immersed ourselves in the extensive coverage and recognition of women’s sports throughout the year and enjoyed the best of the best in our features tonight.
Kathryn Olson, CEO, praised the success of women this past year and also acknowledged the work that remains. In a campaign created for WSF by our partner Gatorade and its agencies TBWA CHIAT Day and Fleishman-Hillard, the Women’s Sports Foundation is creating urgency to help more girls through sports. Keep Her in the Game (www.KeepHerInTheGame.org) reveals the startling statistic that by age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys. In ads shown across national networks, in theaters, and in national print ads, the campaign is bringing additional attention to the work of the Foundation and the support we need to continue our mission.
Because, as Kathryn says, we will continue our work to create leaders by providing all girls access to sports and physical activity. Our incoming chair Sandy Vivas and incoming president Angela Ruggiero will be strong leaders in accelerating our efforts, and the support of our partners including co-presenting sponsors espnW and Gatorade, along with beauty suite sponsor P&G and media sponsors Zeno and Getty Images will enable our success.
We thank our event sponsors, athletes, and donors for an unforgettable evening.