A grand celebration fit for a grand year for women in sports. Perhaps nothing says it more than countless standing ovations throughout the evening? Ovations to recognize legendary accomplishments, to embrace emerging leaders and to honor the best female athletes on the planet. From the glamorous red carpet to the Grand March of Athletes to a star-studded awards presentation, our 34th Annual Salute to Women in Sports at Cipriani Wall Street in the heart of downtown Manhattan was simply the greatest celebration of the year, with all proceeds from the event benefitting our grants, advocacy, research and educational programs for women and girls.
That’s what we’ll most remember from our 2013 event: hundreds and hundreds of our biggest supporters, stars and fans jumping to their feet, hands in high motion, acknowledging truly great women and girls who made this year an unforgettable tribute to all we can achieve as athletes…and most importantly, as women.
Tonight we were proud to honor those efforts and the stories of success they inspire:
– As 50 of the nation’s most accomplished female athletes paraded across the stage, Grand March of Athletes co-hosts Mary Carillo and Julie Foudy proudly recited accomplishments ranging from Olympic gold medals to Guinness World Records, World Championships to record-breaking jumps. From team sports to individual competition, bobsled to badminton, on the court or in the pool, it was our honor to celebrate these women as the faces of iconic athletic achievement and incredible inspiration.
– Joined by Sam Gordon, 10-year-old football phenom and Amanda Rivera, a GoGirlGo! participant from the New York Junior Tennis League, WSF president Angela Ruggiero shared some life-lessons she learned from playing ice hockey; skills that took her to Harvard, the board of the International Olympic Committee and beyond.
- Because this year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Battle of the Sexes and her 70th birthday, WSF Founder Billie Jean King received a special tribute to honor the movement her momentous contributions to society have created. From the enacting of Title IX to equal pay in professional sports to the women's movement in the broader sense, King and her commitment to equality has touched every person in the room.
– Longtime and loyal WSF friend Diana Nyad, just one month off her triumphant, record-breaking Cuba to Florida swim, received thunderous applause as she took the stage to accept a special tribute award. Thanking friends and "Extreme Dream" team members for their tireless commitment and steadfast dedication to her goal, it was evident that Diana felt the admiration, love and support from everyone in the room. Repeating her first words on the Key West shore, Diana told the crowd, "never, ever give up."
-Fresh off her ESPN SportsCenter anchoring duties, Annual Salute host Hannah Storm kicked off the awards portion of the evening, introducing a high point of every Annual Salute — the highlight video. Among countless others, we spotted Serena Williams, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Natalie Coughlin, Robin Roberts and Diana Nyad in the piece that showcases the biggest and best moments of the year in women's sports.
- Michelle Kwan and HBO Sport's Bryant Gumbel teamed up to present the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award to Melissa Stockwell, a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart winner who lost her leg in Iraq, only to then become a Paralympic swimmer and accomplished triathlete. When accepting her award, Melissa shared that she has "done more with one leg than she ever thought she could do with two."
– WSF Founder Billie Jean King honored the WNBA with the Billie Jean King Contribution Award, thanking the league for continuing to evolve and grow women's professional sports in America since its first game in 1997. Laurel Ritchie, WNBA President commented that "the mission of the WNBA is to redefine what's possible." They certainly are doing that.
– We raised the roof (almost literally!) for our Sportswoman of the Year Award winners. Angela Hucles and former WSF President Jessica Mendoza announced WNBA star Candace Parker as the recipient of the 2013 Sportswoman of the Year Award, Team Sport. And Grete Eliassen joined former WSF President Aimee Mullins to present the Sportswoman of the Year Award, Individual Sport, to swimming sensation Missy Franklin.
– And though it seemed nothing could be more inspirational than the journeys and achievements of the women honored thus far, golf legend Annika Sorenstam took the stage to honor Duke University student Vivian Hao, a leader in her school, on her tennis team and in her community, with the ANNIKA Inspiration Award.
Without the support of our Annual Salute Co-Presenting Sponsors espnW and Gatorade, this incredible event could never happen. A huge thank you to them for their support, expertise and dedication to our cause. Big thanks also to our media partner Zeno Group, and official photo partner Getty Images, an irreplaceable component to every successful Annual Salute.