Apr 19, 2020 - Sports

The female athlete transcends gender

Illustration of a smiling woman leaning on gymnastic rings shaped as the male and female symbols

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Female athletes have shifted from being the "first" in their sport to reinventing what it means to excel as an athlete.

The big picture: The fight for equal pay and recognition has moved to the forefront of the sports conversation, as female athletes continue to prove themselves on the playing field and use their platforms to push for change off of it.

  • The names of all the female athletes who are redefining excellence in sport can never be compiled in one list or story, but here are a few examples.
Sabrina Ionescu
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Sabrina Ionescu, a point guard, finished her Oregon basketball career with 26 triple-doubles, more than twice as many as anyone else, male or female. She's the only player in NCAA history to accumulate 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds, Axios' Kendall Baker writes.

  • Ionescu was mentored by the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, receiving tips and advice after they first met in January 2019, USA Today notes.

Driving the news: Ionescu was drafted to the New York Liberty as the No. 1 pick Friday night.

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team celebrating their World Cup title win
Photo: Maddie Meyer/FIFA/FIFA/Getty Images

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team won the 2019 Women's World Cup, bringing the trophy to the U.S. for the fourth time. The men's team has yet to win a World Cup.

  • The women successfully reignited a debate about equal pay and what equal pay should look like for female athletes.
  • The women's team has not lost a single game in 14 months, and they haven't allowed a team to score against them.

The state of play: A judge granted the women players class status in their lawsuit against U.S. soccer for gender discrimination and equal pay, The New York Times reports. A trial date for the case has been set for May 5.

  • U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro tweeted on March 7 the federation "offered to provide identical compensation to our women's and men's players for all matches controlled by U.S. Soccer."
  • Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, told Reuters the letter is "riddled with falsehoods" and it "included the smallest number of games possible, designed to leave out all tournaments, including the SheBelieves Cup," which was held in March.
Allyson Felix
Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Allyson Felix is easily one of the most decorated track and field stars. And if breaking Usain Bolt's record during the 2019 World Championships isn't enough to showcase her athleticism, she did so 10 months after giving birth.

  • Felix also holds the record for most world titles, male or female, with 12, NBC Sports reports.

Yes, but: "Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Phoebe Wright told the New York Times. Felix's experience was similar when she discussed her sponsorship troubles with Nike, and how the company wanted to pay her 70% less after she came back from having a baby.

  • Following the backlash, Nike changed its policy to ensure all of its female athletes are not financially penalized 12 months after giving birth.

The bottom line: A plethora of female athletes deserve a shoutout, but the future of athletics is definitely female.

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