As part of ESPN’s companywide initiative The Power of IX – recognizing the 40th anniversary of Title IX – SportsCenter, in conjunction with espnW, will count down the Top 40 Female Athletes of Past 40 Years beginning Monday, April 30. Every weekday an athlete will be revealed, culminating with the No. 1 female athlete of the past 40 years announced Friday, June 22 – one day prior to the 40th anniversary of Title IX (June 23).
SportsCenter will unveil each female athlete during the 10 a.m. weekday edition for the first six weeks (April 30-June 8), and the top 10 female athletes will be revealed during the 11 p.m. weeknight SportsCenter (June 11-22).
The vignettes will be introduced by ESPN’s Hannah Storm. They will include footage and/or still action photos, along with video, from past or present coaches, teammates or a respected authority from within the women’s sports world.
“Showcasing these remarkable athletes is a highlight of our initiative as we provide fans with insight into Title IX’s effect on society and what the future holds,” said Laura Gentile, vice president, espnW.
espnW.com will provide an in-depth look at every athlete as chosen by an industry-wide blue-ribbon panel and based on athletic achievement. espnW.com has been the digital destination for ESPN’s The Power of IX initiative.
The 24 voters: Val Ackerman, Christine Brennan, Doris Burke, Jim Caple, Linda Cohn, Luke Cyphers, Anita DeFrantz, Sue Enquist, Chris Fowler, Jemele Hill, Johnette Howard, Sally Jenkins, Richard Lapchick, Nicole LaVoi, Donna Lopiano, Jackie MacMullan, Juliet Macur, Chris McKendry, Kathryn Olson, Robin Roberts, Le Anne Schreiber, Hannah Storm, Judy Sweet and Lesley Visser.
The first 10 athletes to be revealed (in alphabetical order) are:
- Joan Benoit (track) – first women’s Olympic marathon champion
- Cammi Granato (ice hockey) – 1998 Olympic Gold Medalist / 2002 Olympic Silver Medalist
- Flo Hyman (volleyball) – USA Volleyball MVP 1978 – 2002; 1984 Olympic Silver Medalist
- Julie Krone (horse racing) – first female jockey to win a Triple Crown race
- Kristine Lilly (soccer) – three-time Olympian with two gold medals (1996, 2004)
- Mary T. Meagher (swimming) – two gold medals in 1984 Olympics
- Fu Mingxia (diving) – quadruple Olympic-diving champion and world champion
- Mary Lou Retton (gymnastics) – won the Olympic all-around title (1984), scoring perfect 10s on floor exercise and vault
- Diana Taurasi (basketball) – Three-time collegiate national and two-time WNBA champion
- Abby Wambach (soccer) – 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist; three-time All-American
Quotes from select vignettes:
USA Today’s Christine Brennan: “Kristine Lilly’s forehead saved the Women’s World Cup in 1999 and may well have saved American women’s sports in some ways.”
Summer Sanders on Mary Lou Retton: “I was at the ’84 Games. I remember her sticking that vault, you know, and throwing her head back with the beautiful smile. And I wanted that moment.”
Tamika Catchings on Diana Tauasi: “You’ve heard Geno say it countless times- coming down the wire, last second shot, I’m getting the ball to D.T. And that’s just the kind of player she is. She’s hard-nosed, she’s fierce- a competitor.”