There has never been a more potent time for women’s sports. The FIFA Women’s World Cup in July was the most-watched women’s World Cup to date. The most-attended women’s sports game of all time took place on Aug. 30, a Nebraska women’s volleyball match. The World Athletics (Track and Field) Championships in Budapest, Hungary in late August saw incredible success from participants in women’s categories. The tennis Grand Slams saw champions in the women’s singles category from three different countries. These events sparked moving stories that captivated global audiences, yet the standout athletes were Americans Coco Gauff and Sha’Carri Richardson.
After her remarkable showing in the 2019 US Open when she was just 15 years old, Coco Gauff rose to tennis fame. She has performed incredibly well in the WTA circuit in the years following, but had never won a major tournament before this summer. It started with the French Open in June, a tournament in which she reached the finals in 2022. Defending champion Iga Świątek of Poland defeated her in two sets in the semifinals. Just weeks later at Wimbledon, Gauff struggled in the opening round, losing to fellow American Sofia Kenin. Despite these disappointments, Gauff defied those who doubted her. In the following weeks, she won her first WTA 500 and 1000 titles, at the Washington and Cincinnati Opens, respectively. Gauff was the first teenager to ever win the Washington Open. In Cincinnati, she defeated Świątek in the semifinals, earning vindication for her loss at the French Open. At the time, Świątek was the global number one. Some said this would be it for her, but The US Open saw the first Grand Slam title for her at just 19 years old on Sept. 9. She defeated Aryna Sabalenka, the current global number one, in the finals, even after losing the first set. Gauff rose to global number three in the weeks following, her highest ranking to date.
During the US Open, the American track team impressed at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August. Perhaps the most compelling story is that of Sha’Carri Richardson, a queer athlete who first rose to prominence after breaking the NCAA women’s 100m dash record in 2019. She was barred from competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after a positive Marijuana test, which sparked outrage among track fans who argued she had not gained any advantage. In the years following, she faced injury, failing to qualify for the World Championships in 2022. Many doubted she would ever return to represent the United States. This year, however, she qualified to represent the United States in Hungary. She then won the 100m dash, was part of the winning 4x100m relay team, and won bronze in the 200m dash; her words after winning were “I’m not back; I’m better.”
Despite all odds, Coco Gauff and Sha’Carri Richardson have proven themselves to those who doubted they were anything but champions. Though the summer of 2023 has come to a close, women’s sports fanatics can now follow the WNBA playoffs until mid-October and the NCAA soccer and volleyball seasons. You can also watch Wellesley’s soccer, volleyball and field hockey games; check the Wellesley Athletics website to view the schedules and see the inspiring efforts of our teams right here on campus.