Photo courtesy of Jessica McDonald / Twitter

Summer Belongs to Female Athletes

The summer of 2019 is shaping up to be monumental for sports: the St. Louis Blues ended their Stanley Cup drought, the Toronto Raptors ended the Warriors’ three-peat chances, and free agency in both those leagues has sports fans going wild. However, the major moments in sports this summer truly belong to female athletes, whose stunning performances and achievements have become global phenomena and hot topics. From the World Cup to Wimbledon, women are capturing the sporting world’s attention this summer.

The biggest showcase for female athletes is the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Women from all around the world descended upon France to represent their home countries on the world stage. Brazilian captain Marta Vieira da Silva, more commonly just Marta, made history by scoring her 17th career World Cup goal, making her the leading scorer in World Cup history for both men and women. Americans were glued to the screen watching their team dominate on the pitch on their way to their third straight World Cup final appearance.

Megan Rapinoe, one of the most outspoken players on the team, has played an integral part of the U.S.’ path to the finals. Her two goals against both Spain and France spared the U.S. from elimination and sent them to the semi-finals. Rapinoe’s refusal to hold her hand over her heart for the national anthem has made her a target for conservatives, but her dominance on the pitch proves she's a crucial part of the U.S.’ journey to a potential second straight World Cup championship.

On a more individual level, women are dominating on the tennis court too. The new phenom is Coco Gauff. Although she’s only 15, Gauff has already stunned the tennis world by beating Venus Williams at Wimbledon. As if taking out tennis royalty wasn’t enough, Gauff also had an incredible comeback win over Polona Hercog of Slovenia to send her to the round of 16. Gauff’s stellar performance signals a bright future for young female athletes. As legends like Marta, Serena, and Venus enter perhaps the final years in their careers, sports fans need and deserve sensational young talents like Gauff to inspire a new generation of athletes.

It seems like women are on a mission this summer to prove they deserve just as much recognition in sports as men. More appropriately, they’ve always been on this mission and are finally gaining the appropriate recognition and praise. Record performances from players like Marta and Rapinoe, as well as the stunning upset by Gauff, prove it’s an incredible time for female athletes. The field not only contains verifiable superstars like Williams and Marta, but also a fresh crop of rookies looking to take their place at the top of their sport. At a time when it seems like the same teams are winning in men’s sports, women have proven they can bring just as much excitement to fans and equally, if not more, compelling storylines.

Behind all this lies the disparities in men’s and women’s sports, an issue which the U.S. women’s team is trying to address. Rapinoe has criticized the decision to schedule the women’s final on the same day as the finals for both the Copa América final and the CONCACAF Gold Cup, both men’s soccer events. The team as a whole is suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for violating equal pay rules.

Both on and off the field, female athletes are drawing attention and fighting to be held in the same respect as their male counterparts. This progress has been a long time coming, and it’s only going to get better and better.

Update: The U.S. women completed their repeat, beating the Netherlands 2-0 thanks to a goal by the outspoken Rapinoe. The same day, the U.S. men lost the Gold Cup to Mexico, further proving where the true dominance in U.S. soccer lies. Sadly, Coco Gauff's Wimbledon run ended, though that doesn't mean she won't be back to shock the world in the future.

A Clevelander trying to bring some Midwestern optimism to Boston College.