Nancy Hogshead-Makar Receives the 2019 Play the Game Award For Safe Sport Advocacy

nancy hogshead
Nancy Hogshead Makar Photo Courtesy: Champion Women

Nancy Hogshead-Makar Honoured for ‘tireless’ work in the protection and support of girls and women in sport

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the 1984 Olympic 100m freestyle champion, head of Champion Women and long-time advocate for safe sport, has been honoured with the biennial Play the Game Award.

On the closing day of the Play The Game conference on the doorstep of the former United States Olympic Committee (USOC), now USOPC (Paralymoic added to the title), and USA Swimming in Colorado Springs at a time of FBI inquiry and fresh legal challenge over sexual abuse, Hogshead-Makar was recognised for her advocacy and work in the protection and support of girls and women in sport.

Play the Game organisers noted: “Over the past three decades, the winner of the 2019 Play the Game Award has been fighting to stop sexual abuse in sport.

“Athlete power on the rise was the theme of the Play the Game 2019 conference, and the work of the winner of this year’s Play the Game Award, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, has helped the rise of athlete power through the formation of Champion Women, her own advocacy organisation for women and girls in sports.”

Jens Sejer Andersen, International director of Play the Game, cited Hogshead-Makar’s “tireless advocacy” as he announced the award at the conference farewell party:

“Tonight we will honour a woman whose efforts have helped create a climate in the American society in which the messages of the gymnast victims could now be heard, understood and acted upon.”


“… while running alone…” – Chronicle screenshot from the Champion Women video


Nancy Hogshead at Duke – Photo Courtesy: Champion Women

As a young athlete in 1981, Hogshead-Makar became victim of rape when out running between two campuses at Duke University. The healing required after an attack that lasted two and a half hours lasts a lifetime.

To add injury to injury, she then had to face newspaper headlines such as that to the right with descriptions such as “running alone”: somehow, it had been her fault, if only she had not run “alone” the man might not have raped her. Such focus and placing responsibility on the victim not the perpetrator would become fuel for Hogshead-Makar’s fearless advocacy. Here is what happened and what happened next – Nancy’s story – in her own words:

Three years on, side claimed three gold medals, her 100m victory shared in an Olympic first with USA teammate Carrie Steinseifer, while two relay victories – 4x100m free and medley – were part of a tally of four medals at Los Angeles 1984: there was silver in the 200m medley behind teammate Tracy Caulkins, too.


Nancy Hogshead-Makar, her award and Jens Sejer Andersen – Photo Courtesy: Play the Game

Andersen told Hogshead-Makar:

“What has impressed us is not only your personal commitment and persistence to defend the rights of those who are subject to discrimination, oppression and abuse. We have also noted that you do this with a deep professionalism, historical awareness and a unique sense of political opportunity. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the Play the Game Award is our modest contribution to the continued empowerment of yourself and the athletes for whom your work. Congratulations.”

The recipient of the award was decided by the governing board of Play the Game and the Danish Institute for Sports Studies. The award was handed over by last year’s winners Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, the whistleblowers who exposed the deep deception and systematic nature of the Russia doping scandal.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar spoke straight back to them when receiving the award, saying:

“I especially want to give thanks to the people who won the award before me. […] I know I stand in really great company, and I am just so thrilled and so delighted, I just can’t thank you all enough. Thank you very much.”

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Susan Osheyack Wicklund

Congratulations Nancy

Jennifer Parks
Jennifer Parks
4 years ago

Brava, Nancy! You have done so much work, for yeats, on making our sport safer, and others, too. Thank you, and perfect Award for you! JP

Starr Walton Hurley
Starr Walton Hurley
4 years ago

Well deserved

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