As the 2016 Rio Olympics come to a close this weekend, I thought we should have another Badass Women post honoring the amazing women athletes competing this year. I have never been more proud of the amazing women competing there from around the world, and showing that they can more than hold their own against, and often beat, the men.
1. Kayla Harrison
Even if you haven’t been watching the Judo competitions, you have probably heard about Kayla Harrison, who won the gold medal for Judo in this year’s Olympics. While she showed great strength and skill in her sport, the victory was two-fold for Harrison. Harrison began to experience sexual abuse at the hands of her first coach when she was just 13 years old. According to several articles, Harrison said the abuse continued when the two would travel for international competitions. Harrison finally found the courage to break away from her coach when she discovered he was involved with another woman. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for his crimes and Harrison went on to train and subsequently win gold in both London and Rio. Her story is so inspiring, one of persevering through immense obstacles to do what you love, and then coming out on the other side of it with a multiple victories. Harrison is a model of strength and her story is a reminder that through everything, we are strong and things will get better if we have the courage to fight for it.
2. Abigail Johnston
Johnston is a diver for the U.S. Olympics team and although she didn’t medal this year, she did take silver in London and held her own in competitions this year. While Johnston’s dives are gorgeous to watch, what’s more impressive about this woman is everything else she is doing in addition to being a professional diver. Not only has she been training in her sport, but she is also a medical student at Duke University and hopes to graduate as a medical doctor in 2018. She’s also getting married, so apparently she has time to cultivate a rewarding social life in the midst of it all. I have a hard enough time keeping up with everything with my current job, I can’t even imagine adding school and sport to the mix. I was super impressed with her while we were watching her dive, for both her skill and her life in general. I know we all think there’s now way we can do everything we dream of all the time, but I think Johnston is a good reminder that we can, it just takes some hard work and finesse.
3. Michelle Carter
Carter is an American shot-putter who won the gold medal at this year’s Olympics and set a new record for distance in the sport. She is the first American woman to medal in the sport since Earlene Brown won in Rome in 1960. Not only has she proved she’s a powerhouse, force to be reckoned with, but she has also used her status as a platform for instilling body positivity and confidence in young girls. There is a wonderful article on Carter in The New Yorker, where she talks about parents asking her to talk to their daughters and tell them its okay to be a strong woman with muscles, competing in a sport that many think should be reserved for men. In the article she says, “You know what? We’re girls and we can throw heavy balls and be in the dirt and we look good while we’re doing it.” This is so inspiring. Carter is such an inspiration and I hope her kind and courageous words will inspire more young girls to realize their strength, test their boundaries, follow their dreams and take pride in who they are, despite what other people may think. God knows we need more of this and I’m so proud that we have someone like Carter working to make it happen … all while winning medals, setting records and generally being a badass.
4. Sarah Robles
Robles is an American weightlifter who took bronze this year by lifting 353 lbs! Gosh, I can barely lift 50 pounds without getting winded. Robles is the first American to win a medal in the sport since 2000 and, like Carter, she is using her medal stance to speak about body positivity and the importance of confident in one’s self. Robles, who was bullied as a kid for her weight (as many of us were), said she wants to help girls be comfortable in their bodies and realize their abilities, rather than have them feeling bad about not conforming (or not being able to conform) to society’s high beauty standards for women. This is a recurring issue at the Olympics, especially this year. We’ve seen so many strong, muscular women who are dominating the arena … yet so many people are focusing on the fact that they don’t “look right.” People are making it seem like having muscles is a bad thing for women to have. I would have to thoroughly and vehemently disagree. Now more than ever women need to be strong if for no other reason than survival. In the meantime, women like Robles are doing amazing things with their muscles. Why is that a problem? In an article by People Robles said, “I didn’t have to conform my body or my ideals or my looks to get where I am … I was able to be myself, embrace my body, do the things I’m naturally fitted to do to help make my dreams come true.”
5. All women athletes that have shown courage, strength and perseverance at the Olympic Games
You all are amazing. I am so encouraged by you all competing, reaching your goals and making this year’s Olympics an important study in the abilities and importance of women athletes. Thank you all for all you do and I can’t wait to see returning, and new, female athletes continue to shatter records and expectations in the Winter!
What Olympic athletes are inspiring you this year? Are there any women athletes you’re looking forward to seeing in South Korea? What are your favorite sports to watch? Let’s talk.