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.