NEW YORK, New York, October 17. MISSY Franklin, Jessica Long and Maggie Steffens represented aquatic sports tonight at the Annual Salute to Women in Sports, where awards were presented by the Women's Sports Foundation for top individual and team sport female athletes.
Gymnast Gabby Douglas won the Sportswoman of the Year in the individual sports category against an impressive list of athletes, including Franklin and Long. Douglas won the individual all-around gold medal at the London Olympics and helped the United States win the team all-around gold medal as well. She is the first African-American to win the individual all-around Olympic gold.
Franklin's accomplishments in the past 12 months include a short course meters world record in the 200 backstroke, a national independent high school record in the 200-yard freestyle and five Olympic medals, three of which are gold. She also set a world record in the long course 200 back at the Olympics, as well as in the 400 medley relay.
Long won seven medals at the London Paralympics and set four world records. The medals won in London brought her career Paralympic medal tally to 17. Long also enjoyed some good news after the Paralympics when a Russian reporter helped her find her birth parents. Long was given up for adoption after she was born in Russia when her mother feared she was unable to take care of a child born without the fibula bone in her legs. Long was adopted soon thereafter and raised in Baltimore.
Other nominees in the individual sports category included runner Allyson Felix, Paralympic track star Tatyana McFadden, skier Lindsay Vonn and tennis player Serena Williams.
Franklin was nominated for the Sportswoman of the Year award in 2011, but it was golfer Yani Tseng who picked up the award.
The Sportswoman of the Year in the team sports division was won by soccer player Alex Morgan, who guided the women's soccer team to gold in the Olympics. She scored three goals in the Olympic tournament and provided four assists, including one in the Olympic final.
“I can't wait to use this platform to make a positive change in the lives of young girls,” Morgan said tonight in her acceptance speech.
Maggie Steffens was the Most Valuable Player of the women's Olympic water polo tournament, scoring more than 20 goals over six games. Her contributions helped the USA win their first gold medal in women's water polo after three previous attempts. Steffens is now a freshman at Stanford University.
Other nominees for the team sports award included Paralympic volleyball player Katie Holloway, volleyball player Destinee Hooker, softball player Keilani Ricketts, basketball player Diane Taurasi and beach volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings.
The evening was highlighted by the tradition of the Grand March of Athletes, in which dozens of female athletes parade onto the stage to rapturous applause. The Women's Sports Foundation tweeted the photo of the salute:
– Women's Sports Fndn (@WomensSportsFdn) October 17, 2012
Swimming has a rich history with the Women's Sports Foundation. Donna de Varona, a 1964 two-time Olympic champion, served as the first president of the WSF and one of the founders of the foundation. De Varona still works with the foundation as chair of the Founder's Circle.
Four swimmers have won the Sportswoman of the Year award: Amy van Dyken (1996), Jenny Thompson (2000), Natalie Coughlin (2003) and Erin Popovich (2005).
The year 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the federal legislation that provided for equal sports and education opportunities for both genders in federally-funded sports. Former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh, known as “The Father of Title IX,” was given the Billie Jean King Contribution Award for his work in authoring the Equal Rights Amendment and getting it passed into law.
Other award winners tonight include world judo champion Kayla Harrison with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award and Liana Thomas with the Annika Sorenstam Inspiration Award.