Sports

Summer Sanders: My take on the 33rd Annual Salute

Summer Sanders is a four-time Olympic swimming medalist and a guest at our 33rd Annual Salute to Women in Sports last week in New York. This article originally appeared on paceclub.speedousa.com.

The Women's Sports Foundation Annual Salute is so much more than an amazing night celebrating the achievements of awesome female athletes. It is even more than a reminder of the work left to be done creating opportunity for our ladies of youth. It is bigger than a wonderful chance to reconnect. The Gala has grown into all of this and more.

This year’s event started with the gift of gab between two of my favorite people, Julie Foudy and Mary Carillo, both clever beyond belief and boasting impressive athletic resumes. They introduced the party of about 70 athletes with stadium horns and high fives. It was a family of female athletes, with each athlete being introduced by one of their sisters. The house went crazy when the 2012 London athletes took the stage, and it got particularly loud when gold-medalists Allyson Felix, Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin waved hello.

During the three-hour event, we honored one another and recognized extraordinary talent and courage from current and future faces. We hung on every word uttered by the barrier breakers Billie Jean King and Donna de Varona. And I must say, when we heard their stories, whether it was the first time or the 30th time we had seen their triumph, we all shed tears. I know my table, which included my fellow Speedo Team athlete Dana Vollmer and the rest of our Speedo crew, did.

The Annual Salute was a reminder of how proud I am to be a part of such a fantastic organization, and how important it is for me to continue to give back in appreciation of the opportunities afforded me. Watching the impact that these female athletes have on the young girls is touching, and it was especially so for me because I brought my 12-year-old niece with me. And while I thought she would love the night, seeing her face light up whenever she relives the moment Missy Franklin pulled her in for a huge hug was absolutely priceless. Because at the core of all the glamour and accolades, that is what it is all about, inspiring and reminding us all of the impact we can have.

I am the person I am today because of sport. Plain and simple. My parents were amazing guides, of course, but it’s my life experiences that have shaped me. And I hope every young girl has the same opportunities to learn the valuable life lessons taught through sport and play.

Our Mission

The Women’s Sports Foundation is a non-profit that advances the lives of women through sports and physical activity.

About the Foundation

RELATED POSTS

Five Questions With: Natalie Hawkins

When gymnast Gabby Douglas flipped her way to the top of the medal podium in London this summer, she instantly had the world at her fingertips. In one night, the 16-year-old Virginia Beach, Va., native became a bonafide superstar, with endorsement deals and sponsorship offers flying in faster than her uneven bars dismount. But what many people did not know is that Gabby’s history-making Olympic gold nearly didn’t happen. In January, facing exorbitant expenses, Natalie Hawkins, Gabby’s mom, applied for our Travel & Training Fund grant on behalf of Gabby. Before we selected the class of 2012 Travel & Training Fund grantees, Gabby competed and won big in London.  She has since decided to give the funds back to the WSF so that another athlete has the chance to pursue her dreams. We sat down with Natalie to talk about her family’s journey and their life-changing experience in London.

35th Annual Salute: Celebrating the Best in Women’s Sports and the Future Leaders They Inspire

Leaders. Not just a word we use regularly to characterize captains, or coaches, or MVPs or All-Stars. Leaders are what sports create – strong, confident, competent girls and women who succeed on the field, in the classroom and in the boardroom. Tonight, at the 35th Annual Salute to Women in Sports, we celebrated leading scorers, leaders of world rankings and leaders in courage and contributions, but we also celebrated every girl inspired by exceptional performances and incredible athletes. Girls who might one day earn athletic scholarships and run corporations or countries…whatever it is that they dream big to do.

2011 Annual Salute to Women in Sports

Tonight at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, we honored the most accomplished women in sports and the girls they inspire with ESPN's Bonnie Bernstein as the host of the 32nd Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards Gala.