It has been a crazy year in sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many leagues transitioned to playing in a bubble while other sports leagues were canceled. While fans are beginning to return to sporting events, it took a while to get to that point. The year was particularly hard on athletes, who had to overcome the obstacle of training while obeying social distancing guidelines.
The ESPY’s honored athletes who have accomplished greatness during the pandemic in early July. Four women were nominated for the Best Female Athlete ESPY award, which Naomi Osaka eventually took home. Here’s a look at the women who were nominated.
Naomi Osaka is one of the biggest stars in tennis and has emerged to be one of the most popular athletes in the world. She first made national headlines after defeating Serena Williams during the 2018 U.S Open en route to her first Grand Slam title. In May 2021, Osaka announced that she will not participate in the French Open to focus on her mental health and later withdrew from Wimbledon. She was criticized by many media outlets and was even fined for not attending the French Open media press conference. However, she gained the respect from many athletes worldwide including Serena Williams, Stephen Curry, and Lewis Hamilton in her decision to sit out to focus on her mental health. She was on the cover of the Times to show her fans and the sports world “It’s ok not to be ok.” Osaka said taking time off did improve her mental health, and she is ready to compete in her first Olympics in Tokyo. The Olympics will be extra special for Osaka as she competes for her first Olympic gold medal while representing the home country.
Amanda Nunes is still fighting at her best even at the age of 33 years old. She currently holds two current belts, one for the Bantamweight and one for the featherweight divisions. She is the first woman in UFC history to win and hold two titles simultaneously. She is one of the greatest fighters the UFC has ever seen. She is currently on a streak of 11 straight wins, which is the longest so far for a woman in UFC history and the second longest active streak in the UFC. In total she has won 14 fights, nine of them being title fights. Nunes holds many records in the UFC, including most knockout wins in UFC Women’s Bantamweight division history, most stoppage wins in UFC Women’s Bantamweight division history, most consecutive wins in UFC female history, and most consecutive wins in the UFC Women’s Bantamweight division. Last year, Nunes defended her featherweight belt as she defeated Felicia Spencer in June of 2020. However, she decided to take the rest of 2020 off to raise her newborn baby. She is set to defend her Bantamweight belt on August 7th for UFC 265 against Julianna Pena for her first title fight of the year.
Simone Biles is arguably one of the best athletes in the world. Only at 4’8, she reaches heights that are physically impossible for her size. In 2016, Biles took home four olympic gold medals and one bronze medal during the Rio Olympics. Biles had a record-breaking 2019 that granted her the title as one of the best gymnasts in history. She won her 25th World Championship medal and her 19th gold medal, which surpasses Vitaly Scherbo for the most medals for a World Championship. During the United States National Gymnastics Championship in Kansas City, Missouri, Biles completed a double-double dismount on the beam and a triple-double on the floor for the first time during any female competition in history. Biles looks to continue to make history during the Tokyo Olympics as she is the favorite to win gold for the all around, beam, vault, and floor exercise. Team USA is also the favorite to win the team again for the third straight Olympics. Biles will be joined by Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles, and Grace McCalluum to represent the U.S during the Olympics in Tokyo.
The Seattle Storm have been one of the best teams in the WNBA for the last few years — winning two championships in the last three years. The core of the team’s success starts with Breanna Stewart, the 26-year-old star on track to becoming one of the greatest WNBA players in history. Stewart has won two championships with the Storm and won WNBA Finals MVP both times. She also won WNBA MVP in 2018 and is a three-time WNBA All-Star. She will be competing in her second Olympics after winning gold for the U.S Basketball Team in Rio back in 2016. Stewart has accomplished many records in her short professional career as she became the fastest WNBA player to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for her career in 55 games. She has won USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year three times, and was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year in 2020.