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Top Female Athletes Honored at the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports

New York City, NY (October 16, 2013) – This evening the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), the leader in promoting sports, health and education for girls and women, honored the most accomplished women in sports and the girls they inspire at the 34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. WSF Founder Billie Jean King, WSF President Angela Ruggiero, and award-winning ESPN sports broadcaster and event host, Hannah Storm, were among the high-profile attendees at the event alongside notable athletes such as Missy Franklin (Swimming), Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating), Annika Sorenstam (Golf), Julie Foudy (Soccer), Tatyana McFadden (Track & Field) and Diana Nyad (Swimming).

The Women’s Sports Foundation’s coveted 2013 Sportswoman of the Year award was given to Missy Franklin (Swimming), for an individual sport, and Candace Parker (Basketball), for a team sport. Iraq War veteran, Paralympian and three-time Paratriathlon World Champion, Melissa Stockwell, received the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award. The Billie Jean King Contribution Award, which recognizes an individual or organization that demonstrates a lasting commitment and dedication to the growth of sports, fitness and physical activity for women and girls, was awarded to the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Young philanthropist and emerging tennis star, Vivian Hao, was the recipient of the ANNIKA Inspiration Award. Below, please find additional information on all of the award winners.

“When the organization was founded 39 years ago we envisioned events like tonight’s dinner where we would celebrate the world’s greatest women athletes and renew our commitment to Title IX and health,” said Women’s Sports Foundation Founder, Billie Jean King. “Tonight we saw once again how important it is for us to continue to do more for future generations.”

Three-time Olympic medalist and two-time World Cup Champion, Julie Foudy, and Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist, Mary Carillo, commenced the fundraising gala with the traditional Grand March of Athletes where all 50 athletes in attendance were honored for their contributions to their sports. This evening’s event also celebrated Diana Nyad’s triumphant record-setting swim from Cuba to Florida. At 64-years-old, Diana, a longtime supporter of WSF, successfully swam more than 100 miles in the open sea, without the presence of a shark tank last month.

Angela Ruggiero, Women’s Sports Foundation President, four-time Olympic medalist in Ice Hockey and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member, took the stage with two young girls who are reflective of the Foundation’s award-winning curriculum and sports education program, GoGirlGo!. GoGirlGo! has reached over one million girls and provided more than $5 million in funding to girl-serving organizations that support sports and physical activity programming.

“The Women’s Sports Foundation’s mission is simple – we are dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring all girls have access to sport, and the Annual Salute to Women in Sports event brings together advocates from Fortune 100 Corporations to passionate individuals who share that mission with us.” shared Women’s Sports Foundation CEO, Kathryn Olson. “The Annual Salute is an important component in not only spreading awareness of our mission but also increasing support for our work to ensure all girls have the chance to play.”

The 34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports was co-presented by espnW and Gatorade®.

Award recipients at the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports:

Candace Parker, Winner of the Sportswoman of the Year Award (Team Sport)
The Los Angeles Sparks forward led the WNBA in total blocks (76) and was second in rebounds (320) for the 2012 season. Parker was also ranked No.1 in blocks per game (2.3) and No. 3 in rebounds per game (9.7) for the 2012 WNBA regular season. Her stellar performance helped the Sparks become No.2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs for the 2012 season. She finished the 2012 WNBA season with an impressive 573 points, averaging 17.4 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game. In October, for the second time in her career, Parker was named to All-WNBA first-team.

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

Missy Franklin, Winner of the Sportswoman of the Year Award (Individual Sport)
Missy Franklin is currently ranked No. 1 by the International Aquatics Federation (FINA) in the 100m backstroke and 200m backstroke, No. 2 in the 200m freestyle and No. 4 in the 100m freestyle by FINA. In the past year alone, she set nine USA Swimming National Age Group records. Franklin took home a combined eight gold medals at the Arena Grand Prix (5) at Minneapolis and AT&T Winter National Championships (3) in 2012 and a combined 11 gold medals at the Arena Grand Prix at Austin (4), Arena Grand Prix at Orlando (4) and Arena Grand Prix at Mesa (3) in 2013. Named 2012 FINA’s Female Swimmer of the Year, Missy also won gold in the 200m freestyle and 100m backstroke, and won gold and set an American record in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona in July.

Past winners include Gabby Douglas, Yani Tseng, Erin Popovich, Natalie Coughlin, Michelle Kwan and Gail Devers.

Sportswoman of the Year Award is given to an athlete who participates on a team sport or in an individual sport and exhibits exceptional performance over a 12-month time span. Finalists were selected based on a total score collected by the public and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Awards Committee. Public votes were captured via the Women’s Sports Foundation website, www.WomensSportsFoundation.org.

Melissa Stockwell, Winner of the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award
In 2004, Melissa Stockwell’s life changed forever when she lost a limb in the Iraq war when her Humvee hit a roadside bomb – becoming the first female American soldier to do so. Following the accident, Stockwell faced painful surgeries and rehabilitation for her leg. She retired from the Army, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. After her retirement, a new dream took shape when she realized that life does not stop because of a disability. Stockwell decided to take her newfound love of swimming to a higher level, and prepare her new body for an opportunity that would allow her to represent her country again – at the 2008 Paralympic Games.

After participating in the Games, Stockwell went on to become a certified prosthetist, a three-time Paratriathlon National and World Champion, a certified triathlon coach, and co-founder of the Chicago-based Dare2Tri Paratriathlon club, where she works with disabled youth and adults in swimming, cycling and running.

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.

Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), Winner of the Billie Jean King Contribution Award
For nearly 16 years, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has shattered decade-long stereotypes about the place of women in professional sports. Since then, the league has experienced tremendous growth and has inspired untold numbers of female athletes. Each year, a greater number of girls learn to play and love the sport of basketball. These athletes advance from grade school to high school and from college to the Olympic Games. Eventually, the very best get the opportunity to play professionally. The WNBA is most responsible for spurring that growth. Since the inception of the league, superstars like Sue Bird, Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes – all past recipients of the Women’s Sports Foundation Team Sportswoman of the Year Award – have paved the way for current stars like Candace Parker, Maya Moore and Angel McCoughtry.

The WNBA receives this year’s Billie Jean King Contribution Award for its tireless work to elevate the image of women in sports. The league is a longstanding supporter of the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Annual Salute to Women in Sports – programs and initiatives that, along with their positive portrayals of women in sports, have furthered the central beliefs that the WNBA holds most firmly.

Vivian Hao, Winner of the ANNIKA Inspiration Award
Vivian Hao has taken her passion for the individual sport of tennis and has made it into a community affair. A recipient of the 2012-2013 Foot Locker Scholar Athlete award, the 2013 Dwight F. Davis Memorial Scholarship and a National Merit Scholarship finalist, she exemplifies the passionate student-athlete. While at high school in Tennessee, Hao supported volunteering efforts like SPEAK: A Movement to End the World’s Worst Atrocities, through which she raised money for student refugees from the genocide in Darfur. She also served as Youth Advisory Council Chair of United Way and, through multiple fundraisers, raised money each year to benefit local organizations.

Hao’s motivation for volunteerism came after she had recovered from the loss of her beloved father. At the age of nine, tennis offered her not only the benefits of structure and mental discipline but also rewarded her with a feeling of control and accomplishment. In order to help others forgo such feelings of helplessness and isolation as she herself had suffered, Hao participated in a volunteer program that taught tennis to children with special needs. Hao realized that, while grief isolated her, it was the physical and psychological disabilities of these children which similarly isolated them. In learning and teaching tennis, both Hao and her students improved their self-confidence, self-discipline and concentration in pursuit of their common goal, to play tennis well and by extension to do well in life.

The Women’s Sports Foundation and the ANNIKA Foundation have partnered to create the ANNIKA Inspiration Award to honor an exceptional young female athlete.

About Women’s Sports Foundation
The Women’s Sports Foundation, founded in 1974, is the leader in promoting sports, health and education for girls and women. With Billie Jean King as its founder and ongoing visionary, the Women’s Sports Foundation continues to have a profound impact on female athletics, from its vigorous advocacy of Title IX legislation to providing grants and scholarships, grassroots programs for underserved girls, and groundbreaking research. An agent for change, the foundation has relationships with more than 1,000 of the world’s elite female athletes and is recognized globally for its leadership, vision, strength, expertise and influence. For more information, visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org. Follow the Foundation at www.Facebook.com/WomensSportsFoundation or on Twitter (@WomensSportsFdn).

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Kevin Pchola
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