A combination of lockdown blues and pandemic panic has distracted me from my personal fitness goals as of late. With many of us in the same boat, I find a boost of inspiration is the best medicine to see us through the challenging days ahead.
As a specialist in female training, my studies and research have led me to discover extraordinary women. Woman who have achieved greatness in face of adversity, waving the flag for change, and nobly marching through unprecedented territory, no matter the personal struggles, prejudices or risks they face.
In need of a boost of inspiration? Read on to discover the stories of 6 badass women in the world of sport.
Edna Campbell: Worth the Fight
Edna Campbell’s story is one of unfaltering passion and valor, during personal anguish. Born in Philadelphia in 1968, Campbell’s basketball career began at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she quickly established a name for herself. After years honing her craft in the sport, the 5”8 guard went on to play for the Women’s National Basketball association for the Sacramento Monarchs, in addition to three other teams.
In 2002, Campbell received the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer, the first active WNBA player to be struck down with the illness. Her determination to continue playing basketball was a catalyst throughout her treatment, which saw her return to the court that very same year.
A symbol of inspiration to survivors, girls and women around the world, Campbell become the WNBA’s spokeswomen for its anti-cancer efforts, with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Retiring from basketball in 2006, she went on to complete her nursing degree, and coached high school girls toward reaching their potential in the sport.
Her zeal, talent, and unshakable devotion to basketball secured her a spot in The Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
Katherine Switzer: F#@k Sexism
In 1967, Katherine Switzer became the first female runner to compete in the Boston Marathon, kick-starting her career as an iconic figure in the sport. At 20 years old, Switzer, who had unofficially joined the men’s cross-country team at Syracuse University (as no female teams yet existed), threw a spanner in the works when she enrolled in the Boston Marathon – a race reserved for men only at the time.
Alongside her then boyfriend and running coach, Arnie Briggs, she finished in an admirable 4 hours and 20 minutes, despite a fail attempt from race manager Duncan Semple, who at mile four tried to grab her bib, screaming at her to “get the hell out of my race”.
Fearless, bold and a trailblazer of her time, Switzer went on to be crowned the female winner of the New York City Marathon in 1974, with an astonishing time of 3:07:29. The following year, she placed second in the Boston Marathon, bettering her time at 2:51:37. Katherine’s achievement in the sport saw her named Female Runner of the Decade during 1967-1977 by Runner’s World Magazine, and in 2011, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, for revolutionizing running as we know it today.
Today, Switzer continues to serve as a beacon of hope and ignition in motivating women from around the world to take pride in their infinite abilities.
Moran Sameul: When Nothing Stands In Your Way
Moran Samuel grew up in northern Israel, where she was an avid basketball player from a young age. Following her mandatory military service, she was drafted into Division 1 for the Israel Women’s national basketball team, alongside coaching girls’ basketball and pursuing her studies in physiotherapy – she was on top of the world.
One fateful morning in September 2006, Samuel’s world was flipped upside down when struck by a rare spinal stroke caused, by an aneurysm, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down and wheelchair bound. Through months of rehabilitation, her persistence, relentless perseverance, and mental strength saw her regain partial muscle function, and she was able to complete her studies.
By harnessing her passion for basketball, Moran qualified for the European Wheelchair Basketball Championship in 2011, and joined the Beit HaLohem team in Tel Aviv. But her story doesn’t end there.
In 2010, Sameul’s interest in rowing saw her train to compete in the London Summer Paralympic Games in London, where she finished fifth, followed by a gold medal in 2015 at the World Cup event in Lake Varesse, and then qualifying for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
In an interview in 2017, Samuel stated: “...you have to look towards what you can do in life, instead of what you can’t.”
Words of advice for us all to live by!
Madonna Buder: Age Is Just A Number
Madonna Buder, born in 1930, has defied all the odds to become the world record holder as the oldest women to complete an Ironman Triathlon. At the age of 82, Madonna swam 2.4 miles, cycled 112 miles and ran the 26.22 mile marathon, back to back in 16 hours and 32 minutes, in the Subaru Ironman Canada in 2012.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Buder’s Roman Catholic upbringing led her to enter into a convent at the age of 23, later moving in 1970 to join dozens of others Sisters, who formed a new contemporary community with the freedom to select their own ministry and lifestyle.
Coined the ‘Iron Nun’, Buder’s exceptional, if somewhat unconventional, sporting career, has seen her cross the finish line of over 325 triathlons, 45 of which were Ironman distances. Despite multiple injuries throughout the years, her devotion to the sport has seen her compete throughout her 80s, with no plans to stop ahead of her 90th this year.
A hero to women everywhere, Madonna Buder is an inspirational figure, proving it’s never too late to reach your goals, no matter the challenges ahead.
Wilma Rudolph: Honor Your Worth
In the 1960s, Wilma Rudolph, a renowned Olympic champion of her time, became an international role model for black, female athletes in America. Born in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee in 1940, the 5”11 sprinter, and fastest women in the world, was the twentieth of twenty two children. Born prematurely and weighing just 4.5 pounds, Rudolph had a difficult start in life.
During her early years, she endured numerous illnesses, from pneumonia to scarlet fever, then contracting polio at age five which caused a loss of ability and strength in her left leg and foot. Disabled and wearing a leg brace during most of her youth, Rudolph endured two years of treatments in Nashville, alongside therapy at home, before she was able to step out without her brace.
In high school, she naturally excelled in sports – namely basketball and track – where she received the nickname Skeeter (meaning mosquito), due to her unparalleled speed. Following years of training, competing at college level and in amateur athletic events, she qualified for the 200-meter individual event at the 1956 Summer Olympic in Melbourne, and took home bronze.
Two years later, Rudolph became pregnant and gave birth to her first child Yolanda, one of four children she would eventually have with Robert Eldrige, who she married and later divorced. With a baby at two, she continued her training and entered the 1960 Rome Olympics, winning three gold medals for the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100-meter relay – the first American woman to win three golds in a single Olympics.
Her success saw Rudolph reigned as the “fastest women in history”, with her success spurring on many others to follow their dreams.
Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch: Talent & Faith
Jewish ultra-orthodox, American-Israeli Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch is truly one in a million, with a natural born talent for running. A mother of five residing in Jerusalem, Deutsch is a champion marathon runner, finding the time to maintain her training schedule, whilst juggling responsibilities at home.
Deutsch began running at the age of 25 and completed her first marathon in Tel Aviv back in 2016, finishing sixth, with an impressive time of 3:27:26. The following year, at seven months pregnant, she completed the same marathon finishing in 4:08:16. Respecting her religious beliefs, Deutsch dawns modest attire for running – a long-sleeved top, skirt and headscarf. All of her runs are dedicated to raising awareness and funds for charitable causes.
Throughout her running career, Deutsch has represented Israel in national championships, where she took home a collection of gold and silver medals. In 2019, she won the Tiberias Marathon with an astonishing time of 2:42:18, qualifying her to take part in the 2020 Olympics.
From her many achievement, “Speedy Beatie” appears to be an unstoppable force, paving the way for women and mothers from all walks of life.