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Top Female Athletes Honored at the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 35th Annual Salute to Women in Sports

New York City, NY (October 15, 2014) – The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) — the leading authority on the participation of women and girls in sports— celebrated the biggest night in women’s sports at its 35th Annual Salute to Women in Sports awards dinner, at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. WSF Founder Billie Jean King, President Angela Ruggiero and Past President Laila Ali were among the high-profile attendees at the gala, co-presented by espnW, FOX Sports, Gatorade, and NBC Sports Group. They were joined by notable athletes like Donna de Varona (Swimming), Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating), Sarah Hughes (Figure Skating), Jamie Anderson (Snowboarding), Teresa Weatherspoon (Basketball), Jessica Mendoza (Softball), Julie Foudy (Soccer), Alana Nichols (Paralympic Alpine Skiing) and Brenda Villa (Water Polo).

The Women’s Sports Foundation’s coveted 2014 Sportswoman of the Year award was given to reigning Gymnastics World Champion Simone Biles in the individual category; 2014 Sochi Olympic gold medal-winning ice dancer Meryl Davis won in the team category. Meryl accepted the evening’s top honors on-stage with ice dancing teammate Charlie White.

Noelle Pikus-Pace was honored with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award for overcoming personal obstacles and athletic defeats to secure a silver medal in skeleton at the Sochi Olympics. 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 Kenyan marathon runner and activist Tegla Loroupe.

“This year marks the Women’s Sports Foundation 40th Anniversary and we are so proud of the accomplishments we have made over the last four decades and the incredible achievements that have been reached in women’s sports,” said Women’s Sports Foundation Founder Billie Jean King. “The Annual Salute is a celebration of the past year but also serves as a beacon to remind us all of the importance of the work the Foundation does for women and girls each and every day.”

Two-time World Cup soccer champion Julie Foudy and two-time Olympic softball medalist Jessica Mendoza commenced the fundraising gala with the electrifying Grand March of Athletes with more than 65 World Champions and Olympians of diverse sports and abilities. This evening’s event also recognized Mo’ne Davis for her athletic accomplishments, including throwing 70 mph fastballs and becoming the first female pitcher to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series.

Angela Ruggiero, Women’s Sports Foundation President, four-time Olympic medalist in Ice Hockey and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member, took to the stage with a young girl, representative of the Foundation’s award-winning curriculum and sports education program, GoGirlGo!. The program has reached over one million girls and provided more than $6 million in funding to girl-serving organizations that support sports and physical activity programming.

“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 Women’s Sports Foundation. “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.”

Award recipients at the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 35th Annual Salute to Women in Sports:

Simone Biles, Winner of the Sportswoman of the Year Award (Individual Sport)
Simone Biles is the current reigning back-to-back Gymnastics World Champion and the first woman to win repeat all-around titles since 2003. Her all-around competition win at the World Gymnastics Championships in 2013 made her just the seventh U.S. woman to win the all-around title at the Championships; just last week, Biles won her second All-Around title and two more gold medals in individual events.

Past winners include Missy Franklin, Gabby Douglas, 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.

Meryl Davis, Winner of the Sportswoman of the Year Award (Team Sport)

With partner Charlie White, ice dancer Meryl Davis is ranked the world’s best in the International Skating Union World Rankings. Throughout 2013, Davis added a number of notable accomplishments to her already-impressive athletic record, including continuing her undefeated streak for three consecutive international seasons and winning her fourth-consecutive ISU Skate America championship (2010-13) in October 2013. In January 2014, Davis won her sixth consecutive U.S. Figure Skating championship (2009-2014) and at the Sochi Games, set Olympic records for the highest scores in short dance, free dance and total score on the way to becoming the first American ice dance team to win Olympic gold.

Past winners include Candace Parker, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Venus and Serena Williams, Jessica Mendoza and Mia Hamm.

Noelle Pikus-Pace, Winner of the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award
Hard work, passion and perseverance projected Noelle Pikus-Pace to skeleton’s highest levels just a few short years after being introduced to the sport. A catastrophic injury caused her to miss the 2006 Winter Olympics, where she would have been the gold medal favorite, and a fourth place finish at 2010 Winter Olympics caused her to walk away from competition. After a personal struggle and support from her husband, Pikus-Pace rose from devastating disappointment to return to competition in 2012. The reignition of her Olympic dream proved invaluable and she conquered her comeback, capturing a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

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.

Tegla Loroupe, Winner of the Billie Jean King Contribution Award
For Tegla Loroupe, WSF’s 2014 Billie Jean King Contribution Award winner, the accomplishments and accolades earned from a storied running career weren’t enough to fulfill the native Kenyan. After winning three world half-marathon championships and setting two marathon world records, Loroupe has lived a life dedicated to promoting world peace through sport.

With race prize money, she founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation in 2003, an organization dedicated to improving peace building, livelihoods and resilience of poor populations affected by and vulnerable to conflict and civil unrest. That same year, the Foundation established an annual Peace Marathons, in which prime ministers, ambassadors and government officials run with warriors and nomadic groups in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan to bring peace to the area plagued by raiding warriors from battling tribes. The Kenyan Government lauded her achievements, in 2010, as hundreds of warriors had laid down their weapons. Through her Foundation, Loroupe established the Tegla Loroupe Peace Academy, an orphanage for children affected by violence from the region of Kapenguria, a high-mountain town in northwest Kenya.

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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