Having released its list of the top 100 most influential people, three female athletes were among the honored list. Featuring seven athletes overall, the likes of swimming sensation Katie Ledecky, tennis champion Sania Mirza and mixed martial arts pioneer Ronda Rousey were bestowed such an honor.
Compared to 2015, when Abby Wambach was the only female athlete on the list, the increase in 2016 may hopefully lead to an even stronger showing in 2017. Surprisingly, Serena Williams, who was recognized by Time’s sister publication Sports Illustrated as the Sportsperson of the Year for 2015, and Dr. Jen Welter, who made history as the first female assistant coach in NFL history were not part of the 2016 list.
Among the criterion employed by Time to shape its list included those that embody a breakthrough and/or have the power to make one think. In addition, each honored member of the top 100 was featured in a profile composed by a guest writer, either a fellow peer or a celebrity.
Of the three honored women, it may have come as the biggest surprise to see Tina Fey honor Rousey with her words. Although Fey is not famous for sport, she is currently part of Rousey’s ambitions to branch out into acting. Both are starring in a Paula Pell produced film titled “Do Nothing Bitches,” to be distributed by Universal.
Rousey has made an impression on both the big and small screen. From hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’ in January 2016, to roles in big budget films such as “The Expendables 3”, “Entourage: The Movie” and “Furious 7”, she is also pegged to be in the remake of “Road House” while a biopic about her career is in the works. It may be highly possible that Rousey will do like football legend Jim Brown, walking away from sport in their prime to pursue acting full-time.
Based on rumors circulating online, the plot of the film centers around rich wives who attend a camp in which Rousey is a military-like instructor. Considering that Pell and Rousey are both represented by WME, the film was actually based on an interview where Rousey spoke about female empowerment.
As Fey recalls her first fascination with Rousey, courtesy of the interview which gathered three million views on YouTube, it becomes clear that she is becoming her biggest fan. Encouraging Rousey’s candor, Fey hopes that her powerful message can serve as the catalyst to help women become comfortable with their body image and self-esteem.
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar takes pen to paper to express his views on Sania Mirza. Both hailing from growing global power India, each has made an invaluable contribution to sport, subsequently becoming legends. Like so many, Tendulkar first heard of Mirza in 2005, when she made history as the first player from India to capture a Women’s Tennis Association event. Admiring her ability to bounce back from a serious injury, Tendulkar is quick to point out in his commentary that Sania means brilliant.
From a tennis perspective, Sania is living up to such billing. Teaming up with Martina Hingis, who was a promising phenom in the late 1990s as a teenager, the two have become an unlikely duo, rising to become the top-ranked doubles team in the world.
After a singles career that quickly fizzled for Hingis, unable to live up to a combination of expectation and image as a sex symbol, continuously placing her in comparison to Anna Kournikova (the two were once doubles partners), the Swiss Miss seemed doomed to be another tennis prodigy poised to burn out. Instead, Mirza has helped Hingis rediscover her greatness, simultaneously reinventing herself as an elite doubles competitor, with the last three Grand Slam titles to show for it.
The presence of Hingis has certainly been reciprocated, as Sania bounced back from a potentially career threatening wrist injury, forcing her to abandon singles competition. From Tendulkar’s perspective, her confidence, strength and resilience are remarkable qualities, which he believes shall help inspire a new generation of promising athletes in India to pursue their own sporting dreams.
Recognizing the growing greatness of Katie Ledecky, swimming legend Janet Evans emphasizes that she is in a class of her own, oblivious to the seven other swimmers occupying the other lanes. Having captured four gold medals in the Summer Games, Evans carved a legacy that Ledecky not only emulated, but managed to exceed.
At one point, Evans held the world records in the 400-m, 800-m and 1,500-m freestyle events. Ledecky would eclipse all three records and make waves by capturing five gold medals at the 2015 World Championships. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the fact that she was only 18 years old when these records fell.
Having first met Ledecky in November 2015, when Ledecky captured the Golden Goggles award for Female Athlete of the Year, Evans is definitely in awe. She points out how Ledecky became the first female swimmer to earn a first place finish in the 200-m, 400-m, 800-m and 1,500-m freestyle in the same World Championships. Yet, the quality that Evans admires the most is Ledecky’s maturity, a focus that results in resetting what she can achieve.
Coincidentally, Evans and Ledecky once swam in the same meet. The two would take the plunge in 2012 for the US Summer Games Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. It was actually Evans first Trials since 1996, before Ledecky was even born.
While Ledecky enjoyed a first place finish in the 800-m freestyles at the Trials, it was a moment of redemption. Evans had noticed that the product of Bethesda, Maryland experienced heartbreak earlier at the Trials, placing third in the 400-m freestyle. As a side note, Evans held the world record in the 400-m from 1987 to 2006. Considering that only the winner qualifies for the Summer Games in an individual event, such frustration was compounded as the 400-m came before the 800-m.
Heading into the 2016 Rio Summer Games, Ledecky is poised to build on the momentum of her world record haul and become the next swimming superstar from the United States, possibly capturing the imagination of fans the way Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps once did. Having won a gold medal in the 800-m freestyle at the 2012 London Summer Games at the tender age of 15, she looks destined to win much more in Rio. Undoubtedly, the first gold in London definitely brought back memories of when Amanda Beard won her first Summer Games gold as a teen phenom at Atlanta 1996. Of note, 15 was also the age that Evans set her first world record.