Why you should care
Because a digital Alex Morgan could be your daughter’s, or your son’s, favorite new video game character.
We’re in the middle of a great change in the perception of women in sport. After her 21st Grand Slam title last weekend at Wimbledon, Serena Williams is now being considered one of the greatest athletes in history, revered as much for her excellence as a singles tennis player as for her positive effect on expanding the idea of female beauty to include strength and power. Then there’s Ronda Rousey, the undefeated mixed martial arts champion who this week challenged boxer Floyd Mayweather to a fight. Few people think the match will happen, but she is so good, and so tough, that few question the sincerity of her request.
Then there’s the women’s national soccer team. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the team of 23 won the Women’s World Cup in dominant fashion last month and created great defining memories for a generation of young girls who no longer accept the confines of a glass ceiling. In a totally unsurprising but related development, it was announced that U.S. women’s national team attacking forward Alex Morgan will grace the cover of FIFA’s 100 million-copy-plus-selling video game series, alongside Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. This is the world we live in now — women are an economic and cultural force, and people in power are paying attention.
In the following stories, we take a look at the most interesting women athletes OZY has covered, including those who have paved the way with inspiring individual performances. And guess what? We think they all should be on the cover of video games. Check them out below.
Lacey Baker: A Superstar Skateboarder
“Lacey Baker does not give a damn. Skating since the age of 5, she did it as a kid-sister goof. It makes sense, given her background. Her father, the late Marshall Rohner, was punk-rock royalty. The sometime guitarist for T.S.O.L. used to tape pics of her and her brother to his amps. After age 11 or so, along with around 10.6 million other kids in the U.S. under the age of 18, according to American Sports Data — more than were playing baseball in 2001 — Baker started skating with a passion.
‘The thing is, girls can be great gymnasts,’ says Matt Etheridge, former photographer at skateboard bible Thrasher. ‘So the issue was never ability. But skating, for whatever reason, has always been kind of outlaw, and that made it heavier to get into, just vibe-wise.’”
And that is only part of the story. Follow Baker as her personal life becomes more difficult, but she starts getting stronger. Read more here.
Ediane Gomes: The Man-Beating Boxer
“She was trained in Brazilian jiujitsu, but more important was the way of life she’d known. As a kid, her parents deeded her away to another poor family, and from there she bounced to some version of Brazilian foster care before escaping into the streets of São Paulo, where fighting — for food, for drugs, for a place to sleep — was business as usual. What wasn’t? When some guy rolled up and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: $250 to fight, plus $250 more if she won. Sight unseen, she took the deal. Forget that the fight was super-sketchy, underground and real vale tudo, or anything goes, combat. That is, no rules of any kind, and no gloves or any other protective gear outside of a stray spot of medical tape by way of a hand wrap. And forget the most obvious fact: She’d be fighting a man. A male kickboxer, to be exact.”
We think you know what comes next, but the video of Gomes’ fighting style really gives you an idea about the type of pummeling she can give out. Read more here.
Nadia Comaneci: The Perfect 10
“The ‘Barbie doll with bangs,’ as she was labeled at the time, was all of 4 feet 11 inches and 86 pounds. Today, she is 53, but she is still committed to our collective memory. How did she get started? At the age of 6, she was training six hours a day most days of the week. Named United Press International’s Female Athlete of the Year 40 years ago, in 1975, the young girl from the Carpathian Mountains exploded onto the scene a year later to grab five Olympic medals, three of them gold. While the Soviet women — the dominant force of the era — still took top prize as a team, Comaneci became the youngest individual all-around Olympic champion, at age 14.”
If there is such a thing as a graceful explosion by an individual onto the world stage, it’s the journey of Nadia Comaneci. Follow her as she spun, flipped and turned everyone and their grandma into a gymnastics fan. If video games had been around in the late 1970s, Nadia would have been on a cover, for sure. Read more here.