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8 Moves That Made 2013 An Awesome Year In Sports

8 Moves That Made 2013 An Awesome Year In Sports

8 Moves That Made 2013 An Awesome Year In Sports

Lesbian-on-lesbian cage matches, a $7 million payout in pro poker, and Abby Wambach's legs made 2013 a kickass year to be a female athlete.

This year was undoubtedly a year of firsts for sporty women who like women. In fact, two women broke barriers in their male-dominated sports (UFC and professional poker, respectively), an old NCAA Women’s Final Four favorite became the first team featured in a nationally recognized anti-bullying/inclusion campaign, and the U.S. Olympic Committee took their first steps to address Russia’s highly scrutinized “Propaganda Law” by expressly prohibiting discrimination in U.S. events and teams on the basis of sexual orientation.

In 2013, we also saw the first on-court, female kiss (and subsequent double foul call) when out Minnesota Lynx star Seimone Augustus and the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi shared a quick peck during a game, and we watched as an out international swimming hall of famer finally reached her life’s goal.  

In 2013 we saw so many positive achievements in female sports, but unfortunately, at the same time we witnessed events that prove that we have many miles left to go — just think about the lesbian ban in Nigeria Women’s Soccer, and the apparent “don’t ask don’t tell” politics of the Winter Olympic games in Sochi. 

That said, we wanted to highlight some of the achievements in female sports this year, celebrating the advancements that inspire the younger generations to “go big or go home.” 

8) Professional poker player Vanessa Selbst Takes 1st 

In January, out professional poker player Vanessa Selbst beat out an all-male field of competitors to take home first place in the $25,000 PokerStars High Roller Tournament, cashing out with a cool $1.4 million in prize money.

Not only did she win the event, she also became the top-earning female tournament player of all time with more than $7 million in total earnings.

Prior to January, Selbst competed and finished as a semi-finalist in World Series of Poker (WSOP) events in Omaha in 2008 and in the 2012 ten-game mix, becoming only the second female to win two WSOP bracelets. 

Personally, things are golden for the Selbst: she popped the question prior to the PokerStars event, and her girlfriend said yes. 

"I thought if I did it the night before the Super High Roller, that would make me, like, extra lucky," Selbst told PokerStars.TV at the time. "So far it's been working, so I think that was a pretty good strategy."


7) UFC Lesbian Fighter Wins First Lesbian-on-Lesbian Cage Match

In July “Lizbians” everywhere celebrated after out mixed martial arts fighter Liz Carmouche took home her fifth career victory in a UFC fight against openly gay opponent Jessica Andrade. The match at Seattle’s Key Arena was the first time two openly gay fighters went head-to-head in a UFC match. 

Carmouche won by technical KO in the second round, with just one minute left. The match aired on FOX nationally, another first, as it was the first time a women’s bantamweight match was aired on broadcast television, preceding the title fight between flyweights Demetrious Johnson and John Moraga. 

6) UConn Women’s Basketball Champs Again

The Huskies secured their 8th National basketball title (5th in the last 10 years) with the largest margin ever in a women's NCAA title game, defeating the Louisville Cardinals 93-60 in New Orleans on April 9th.

The 8th title tied coach Geno Auriemma with legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, and UConn with Tennessee, for the most championships in women's basketball history. UConn's other national championships came in 1995, 2000, 2002-04, 2009-10.

In October, the Huskies became the first women’s team featured in the Br{ache the Silence (BTS) Tour of Champions campaign, a newly formed advocacy group with the sole purpose of advancing LGBTQ inclusion in sports to combat homophobia and mobilize a charge for respect for all. The campaign ran a minute long video featuring Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and Brianna Banks stressing that bullying and anti-gay comments have no place on the court and that “all are welcome here.” At the end of the announcement, the four stars of the 2013 championship squad invite BTS supporters to “be your own champion.”

5) Out Athletes Heading to Sochi

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will not be heading to Sochi, Russia for the opening ceremonies of the upcoming winter games. It is unclear whether or not this is in protest of Russia’s “Gay Propaganda Law,” prohibiting propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships.

But in their place, the U.S. will send at multuple out and not-so-out athletes to compete, in addition to a delegation who will attend the opening/closing ceremonies on behalf of the U.S. 

On December 17th this list was announced and tennis great and LGBT rights advocate Billie Jean King will be one of the three openly gay athletes in attendance including Olympian and figure skater Brian Boitano, and out hockey player Caitlin Cahow.

King told ESPN that she was “deeply honored” to be chosen, and that “she is equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people.”

White House spokesman Shin Inouye said the delegation "represents the diversity that is the United States" and that Obama "knows they will showcase to the world the best of America -- diversity, determination and teamwork."


4)US Olympic Committee Adds Sexual Orientation to Non-Discrimination Code 

In October, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) announced that it had amended its code of conduct to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Scott Blackmun, the USOC's chief executive officer, cited Russia's enacted nationwide ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" as the reason for the review, and clarified that the USOC does not support the propaganda law. "I want to address the legislation in Russia prohibiting advocacy of nontraditional relationships among minors," said Blackmun. "Even though we have been assured by the IOC that the new law will not directly impact anybody in Russia for the Games, it is important for us to emphasize that we believe the law is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Olympic and Paralympic movements. To bring that point home, yesterday, our board voted to amend the USOC’s code of conduct to include specific mention of sexual orientation in our own nondiscrimination policy."

3)Abby Wambach Becomes All Time Leading Scorer 

It’s been quite a year for US Women’s soccer phenom Abby Wambach. She currently stands alone as the leading world all-time international scorer with 163 goals in 212 international matches. The forward netted four goals in the first 30 minutes of play during an International friendly in June with the Korea Republic squad. With the 4th goal, she surpassed the legendary Mia Hamm as the all-time leader.

U.S. Soccer named her their Female Athlete of the Year (her sixth nod, and the 3rd time in the last 4 years) in November, and weeks later, she landed #5 on ESPNW’s Impact list, which is comprised of the top 10 female athletes who made the biggest impact in 2013. 

Not to mention the strides she’s made in her personal life. Abby married her longtime girlfriend, Sarah Huffman (also a soccer player) in Hawaii on October 5. At the time Abby said "I can't speak for other people, but for me, I feel like gone are the days that you need to come out of a closet. I never felt like I was in a closet. I never did. I always felt comfortable with who I am and the decisions I made.“

2)Diana Nyad Realizes Her Dream 

In September, on her 5th try, out endurance swimmer Diana Nyad finally completed a 110-mile swim across the Strait of Florida, from Cuba to Key West, Florida, setting a record that she had chased for three decades.

"This is a lifelong dream of mine and I'm very very glad to be with you. Some on the team are the most intimate friends of my life and some of you I've just met. But I'll tell you something, you're a special group. You pulled through; you are pros and have a great heart. So let's get going so we can have a whopping party," she said at the time. 

Nyad first tried back in 1978, but enormous waves forced her to quit after 42 hours. And in 2012 she made it 41 miles before hypothermia, storms, and jellyfish stings forced her to abandon the effort.

Nyad is known for her outrageous swim attempts, including circling Manhattan Island in seven hours and 57 minutes in 1975, and for completing, what was then the longest swim in history, a 102.5 miles from the Bahamas to Florida in 1979.

1) The Rise of Brittney Griner

Success on the basketball court has come easy (seemingly) to the 6’8’’ Texas-born center Griner, having been named the #1 high school basketball prospect in the country back in 2009, being named the AP Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four in 2012 for the Baylor Bears (to name only a few accolades), and in May becoming the first WNBA player to dunk twice in one game during her WNBA debut (going first overall draft pick) for the Phoenix Mercury.

But what has been a surprise to most is how seemingly at ease she has been throughout her own personal coming out process. Back in April, Griner came out publicly to, and during the interview she could not stress enough to “just be true to yourself, don’t hide who you are.” 

And in May she made an appearance at the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in San Francisco, and during her speech, she encouraged “all youth, all elders, it doesn’t matter the age group, it’s never too late, it’s never too early, if you know, then you know.”  She went on to say, “Be who you are, and if there’s ever a problem, find somebody, find anybody.  Find me on Twitter, we will find help, it will be ok.” 

She has made the fight against bullying her mission, writing an essay for the NY Times in May, all the while settling in to her new career as WNBA center (already named a WNBA all star) and Nike spokeswoman.  Next up…sky’s the limit. 


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Leslie Dobbins