By Amy Hernandez
Meet Naomi Osaka, the 2020 U.S. Open Women's singles champion. If you're not familiar with the name, Osaka is a professional tennis player who is a three-time Grand Slam singles champion. Osaka has been taking tennis by a storm since her 2018 U.S. Open win over the great Serena Williams. A fantastic player on and off the court, Osaka was commended for using her platform to support the Black Lives Matter Movement. During the U.S. Open, Osaka wore seven masks with the names of seven black victims of police brutality. When asked about the message she was trying to send during her trophy ceremony, Osaka answered, "Well, what was the message you got? [That] was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking." Later on, Osaka posed with her trophy in attire representing her Japanese and Haitian heritage.
Cori "Coco" Gauff is a sixteen-year-old American tennis player who is the youngest player ranked in the top 100 by the Women's Tennis Association. Her victories over some of the greats like Venus Williams has proven that she is the real deal. Believe me, when I say, Gauff is an exciting player you should be watching because she is already incredibly skilled and will only elevate her game higher as she gains more experience. Gauff has also used her platform to address racial injustice and police brutality. In June, she delivered a moving speech at a protest in her hometown of Delray Beach, Florida. A real role model for little girls, Gauff is an inspiration for aspiring tennis players and athletes everywhere.
Serena Williams needs no introduction, but I'll give her one anyway. If you've never watched Williams since turning professional in 1995, you have been missing out on one of the greatest female athletes of all time. Throughout her career, Williams has won twenty-three Grand Slam titles; more Grand Slam wins than any man or woman in the Open Era. At the age of thirty-eight and after becoming a mother to the adorable Olympia, Williams is still chasing greatness. Her latest endeavor led Wliiams to the 2020 U.S. Open semifinals and showed us that she is still a force to be reckoned with.
Did you catch any of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (USWNT) games last year when they won back-to-back World Cups? If you did or saw any content about it, you might have heard of Megan Rapinoe, the team's winger and captain. Rapinoe was sensational during the tournament as she led her team to victory, and continued to stand for what she believes in. Besides her talent, Rapinoe is also a hero for her activism. Despite the criticism she received, Rapinoe joined Colin Kaepernick's protest against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem for club and national team games. Throughout her career, she has fought for racial justice, women's rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. If you can catch one of her games next time she plays, do so, because there is no doubt Rapinoe is fierce, charismatic, and a warrior.
Sam Kerr is an Australian soccer player who currently plays for Chelsea in the English F.A. Women's Super Team and is the captain of the Australia women's national soccer team (the Matildas). Kerr is considered by many to be the best female football player in the world. She is the first Australian player to score a hat trick in a World Cup tournament and is known for her speed, skill, and grit. Kerr has proven to be a scoring machine year after year, so trust me when I say, she is an exciting player to watch.
With two high school state titles, two college national championships, and one WNBA championship, Candance Parker is one of the best to play basketball. Through injuries and difficulties, she has remained a fierce competitor and a team player. Parker was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament and the second player in the WNBA. She was also the number one pick in the 2008 draft. Currently, Parker finds herself in the WNBA bubble with her eleven-year-old daughter searching for another championship with her team, the Los Angeles Sparks. Like many other athletes, Parker has used her platform to highlight social justice initiatives, and inclusively wrote an article for Time magazine titled "Change Has No Off-Season." When she's not playing in the WNBA, you can also watch her as an NBA analyst on TNT.
In 2004, the Phoenix Mercury drafted Diana Taurasi with the number one pick, and the rest was history. Sixteen years later, Taurasi has a WNBA Rookie of the Year Award, three WNBA championships, one WNBA Most Valuable Player Award, two WNBA Finals MVP Awards, four Olympic gold medals, five scoring titles, and three World Cups. Although Taurasi is towards the end of her career, there is no doubt she is a legend. Presently, Taurasi also finds herself in the WNBA bubble, fighting for another title with the Phoenix Mercury.
Want to know who is next in line to take over the WNBA? Well, look no further because she has arrived, and her name is Sabrina Ionescu. Like Parker and Taurasi, Sabrina was selected with the number one overall pick. A member of the New York Liberty, Ionescu's rookie season was cut short due to an ankle injury, but we have seen enough from her to know she is going to be special. As a college basketball player for the Oregon Ducks, Ionescu became the NCAA all-time leader in career triple-doubles, the Pac-12 Conference all-time leader in assists, and the only NCAA Division one player to record 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds. Believe that exciting times are ahead for Ionescu and women's basketball.
Where do I even start with Simone Biles? If you haven't heard of her, please, please, please go check out one of her many highlight videos on YouTube because she is out of this world! At the young age of twenty-three, Biles is already the most decorated gymnast ever with twenty-five gold medals. She has elevated the sport of gymnastics to a whole new level by raising the degree of difficulty and is undoubtedly the GOAT. Although we didn't see her shine in the Olympics this year because of COVID, prepare yourself to see Biles soar higher than ever before when the games begin. Words can't explain the fun I've had watching Biles do her thing, and I assure you she will not fail to leave you with an open mouth from absolute amazement.
Another gymnast who should be on your radar is Sunisa Lee. Along with Biles, Lee is part of the U.S. women's national gymnastics team. Some of her accolades already include winning gold, silver, and bronze at the 2019 World Championships. The St. Paul gymnast is working hard and making many sacrifices to make the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team. Lee placed second behind Biles at nationals in August of last year, so there are high hopes for her to make the team. Although the path to Tokyo will not be easy for Lee since squads have been reduced to only four members, I hope Lee earns a spot in the lineup because she has shown to be spectacular.
Amy Hernandez is an editorial intern dedicated to researching and writing about all things skincare, film, and fashion.