We celebrate Women’s Month by taking after these strong women
Graphics by Nimu Muallam
Happy Women’s Month! Even though we should celebrate them all year round, March is the annual reminder that women are just as good as men, because a lot of people around the world still don’t get it.
But other than the greatness of their strength and performance, there are many lessons to be learned from female athletes and their sporting careers. These insights matter both on and off the playing field, and every athlete regardless of gender would do well to heed these five elite women.
Hidilyn Diaz: You can get to the top on pure talent and hard work, even without the system’s support
The only Filipino Olympic gold medalist achieved her crowning milestone because she simply was good enough. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz had to go through training in an under-equipped gym and needed to go abroad just to find the right environment to get better.
Even Malacañang has gone on to admit that they don’t really fund national athletes properly, forcing Diaz to appeal to the private sector. It’s sad that the government only rewards athletes who break out and succeed despite the inadequate support system, instead of those struggling to represent the country in glory. But Diaz’s iron will and raw strength were enough to prove that anyone, especially women, can pull it off.
Serena Williams: Pregnancy and its changes can’t stop you from being the greatest
Legendary tennis player Serena Williams needs no introduction: She is undisputedly elite, and she may very well be the greatest tennis player of all time among women and men. She’s also made bank, being the highest-paid female athlete at one time in 2016, which is important in a world where women are still not paid as much as men.
In 2017, Williams announced her pregnancy, and the most amazing thing about it was that she won that year’s Australian Open while being eight or nine weeks pregnant with her daughter Olympia. Though she would suffer some complications following her C-section delivery, she would remain playing at a high level until her retirement last year and go on to win one more title at the 2020 ASB Classic in Auckland.
Though Williams is an elite athlete, her late-career run proves what almost all women already know: Pregnancy and childbirth can’t stop you, and they don’t take away your greatness in any way. If you’re considering having a child but are worried about the effects and complications, let Williams be your guide.
Bianca Belair: Women can be just as good as men, if not better
Elite pro wrestler and current RAW women’s champion Bianca Belair is nothing short of a phenom. Rising largely unheralded from the ranks of WWE’s developmental system, she has gone on to be undeniable as one of the wrestling juggernaut’s faces of the brand, and that’s all thanks to her sheer athletic prowess.
The former track-and-fielder brands herself as the “EST” of the WWE; specifically, the strongest, fastest, toughest, etc.—you get the point. She’s proven it time and time again, and it’s not just about lifting and tossing people. She’s agile, athletic, and has a huge gas tank, making her a pure athlete who is legitimately better than some of the male wrestlers.
Belair is living proof that men aren’t always better at things, and it translates to anything women do, whether it’s on a playing field or in the office, or anything they choose to do. Refuse to let the patriarchy get you down.
Elena Delle Donne: Your sports career isn’t everything
WNBA champion and all-around iconic basketball player Elena Delle Donne is no stranger to playing at a high level and the victory that comes with it. She’s racked up multiple awards and titles in her nine years in the league so far.
One thing that separates her from the rest of the player base, however, is her decision to not play overseas in the off-season to earn more money. Women ballers often choose to play for foreign teams, usually in Europe, to supplement their relatively low WNBA salaries. Delle Donne chose to stay home early in her pro career to help care for her sister Lizzie, who is blind, deaf, and has cerebral palsy.
All of Elena Delle Donne’s sacrifices prove that sports isn’t everything, even if it’s your livelihood. There will always be time and space to take care of the most important things, and you’re no less of an athlete to prioritize them
Delle Donne also suffers from Lyme disease after getting a tick bite in high school, and she’s very careful to maintain her health. That means having to pass on delicate circumstances, like the 2020 WNBA season that pushed through despite the pandemic.
All of Delle Donne’s sacrifices prove that sports isn’t everything, even if it’s your livelihood. There will always be time and space to take care of the most important things, and you’re no less of an athlete to prioritize them.
Megan Rapinoe: Sports is a platform for your unapologetic beliefs
Multi-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner and one-time Best FIFA Women’s Player Megan Rapinoe has been criticized for being too outspoken, too loud, too gay, and too “woke.”
But the legendary American footballer understands the assignment perfectly: Male and female athletes are not just athletes, they’re human beings with personal beliefs. While that includes the problematic ones as well, the best of them understand that the highest level of play is oftentimes the biggest platform to fight for their causes.
Whether it’s kneeling in solidarity with the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick in his fight for equality, fighting for equal pay for women athletes, protesting artificial turf in the World Cup, speaking out about the Supreme Court of the United States controversially overturning Roe v. Wade, or simply being herself, Rapinoe has taken every opportunity to stand up for what she believes in.
That should inspire many other athletes, especially women (who are still generally dismissed, if the last presidential elections have taught us anything) to shed their roles of “just being players and entertainers” and be a beacon of what’s right. And no matter who you are, you have the right to fight as well. It’s simply what makes you a human being.
Source photos for the lead graphics by Tang Chhin Sothy (Hidilyn Diaz), Angela Weiss (Serena Williams), Alex Bierens de Haan (Bianca Belair), Elena Delle Donne (Katharine Lotze), and Megan Rapinoe (Tim Nwachukwu) all from AFP and Getty Images via AFP