Olympians might be role models themselves, but the athletes have people they look up to as well. Yahoo Lifestyle asked 13 athletes competing at the 2018 PyeongChang Games who inspires them and the common theme: moms, Michelle Obama, and Serena Williams.
Aja Evans, bobsledder
Serena Williams is a huge inspiration for me. I’m like really obsessed with her. She’s always been one of my favorite athletes — her and Venus Williams — and just to see how she continues to trailblaze and do whatever she wants and just owns it, I’m just in love with that passion, that drive. No matter what she’s doing, from being around her kid, going back into tennis, and just sharing that with the world. I really love that about her.
Monique Lamoureux, ice hockey player
I would say Serena Williams. I think she’s showing women all over the world you can have it all. You can have a family, be married, and still pursue what you’re passionate about. To see debatably one of best athletes of all time doing that and coming back after having a child says a lot about women in this day and age.
For myself and my sister, we’re both hoping to go home and start families after these Olympics are over, and after that I would like to come back and continue to play. I wouldn’t say it’s frowned upon, but some wonder if you’ll come back and play after kids. Your priority would be kids, they think. But no one would tell a man to pick between his job and passion and kids.
Sarah Hendrickson, ice hockey player
Lindsey Vonn. She’s gone through so many injuries. Every year she gets slammed with something because she pushes the limits. So, I have so much respect for those people who come back time after time. For her to keep pushing, to see the dedication and passion for her sport is inspirational.
Jessie Diggins, cross country skier
My mom. And I know that sounds maybe cheesy, but I’m really, really close with my family. I Skype with them every week. And my mom is just an incredible woman. She’s so smart, she’s witty, she’s funny. But she’s so hardworking and so driven, and I really hope that I turn out like her someday. It’s been really inspiring to me how she always knows exactly what to say if I’m nervous before a race, or if a race hasn’t gone well, she also knows what to say. Which is probably more important.
Kikkan Randall, cross country skier
That is a tough question. I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty amazing role models growing up. My Aunt Betsy was an Olympic skier in 1980, and so growing up I really looked up to her and got to hear her Olympic stories and chased after her Alaska state mile record. Didn’t quite get it, her record actually still stands. But she always gave me something to chase, and what’s been really cool is she’s been to almost every Olympics that I’ve been to. In fact, I think she’s been to almost every one. And so she’s been really supportive of my career and that person who’s always making sure that I’m staying happy and just mentally healthy being an athlete. And she’s also a very successful business woman. She’s an executive vice president with Alyeska Pipeline, so she’s a strong, female leader in the business world and something I aspire to beyond my ski career. So it’s been so cool to have her in my life.
Summer Britcher, luger
Sloane Stephens. She won the U.S. Open. She won something big and she didn’t expect to.
Erin Hamlin, luger
Billie Jean King. She’s a rock star and I met her at the Women’s Sport Foundation. She’s been amazing for female athletes and for getting girls into sports. I’m in awe of her and how ballsy she is. And Michelle Obama. She’s awesome.
Emily Sweeney, luger
I’ll say sports first: All the females we’re surrounded by at the training center, all the time. There are so many women pushing boundaries in sports every day. Also, I am a sucker for Ellen DeGeneres. She makes me happy and if I’m in a bad mood, all I have to do is watch an Ellen video. Being able to spread that much positivity.
After the Golden Globes, I loved all the women who wore black, Oprah’s speech was so inspirational. What our team went through fighting for equitable sport in hockey, but their speeches, it transcends sports.
It’s important for there to be equality in sports and a safe working environment for women across all professions. Oprah’s speech was incredible. All the women who stood behind her and their speeches as well, that was cool to see.
I’ve personally not had any experience like that [with sexual harassment.] A lot of what’s coming out today, in sports and in the working world, it’s unfortunate that it’s so common. I’ve personally not had experiences like that, but I hope that the sharing of people’s experiences and not being afraid to speak out about any inappropriateness going on, I hope that starts to change the environment for working women.
It’s unfortunate and sad, but hopefully we can learn and grow from women speaking out. And with men, they’re the second half of the equation. You need men to equally support this and look at what behaviors that have seemingly become so status quo that need to change.
Maame Biney, short track speed skater
Yeah, I have quite a few. Simone Biles, Serena Williams, Gabby Douglas, Beyonce. All those African American women who have really stood out and really changed the world and how people see them. That’s what I aspire to be because then all the little kids who want to be in a sport or something, a winter sport especially, they can really say, ‘I can also do that because Maame Biney’s doing it.’
Jessica Smith Kooreman, short track speed skater
There’s so many out there doing things. My mom, obviously. She’s probably the strongest woman I personally know and have been around. She’s my rock, she’s there for me through thick and thin, tells me what I may not want to hear, but need to hear. She’s raised me to be the person that I am. There’s a bunch of different women out there who I feel have some sort of empowerment that I can take something away from.
I tend to lean a little bit towards Serena Williams just because I think that she’s such a powerful athlete. She reminds me of myself because she’s come through the ranks since she was a kid. Most people don’t understand that it’s hard to stay on top. It’s easy to get there, but it’s hard to stay there. She’s done a really great job at staying on top of her game and representing herself well. She’s one that I watch and follow to see what she’s up to. There’s so many other women out there that I take something from, and that’s the best thing. They’re doing so well in their lives and in their careers, whether it’s athletes, business, or actresses. It’s nice to know that there are way more women out there doing more good than not.
Mirai Nagasu, figure skater
I definitely love comedy and comedians, and I feel like life is about laughter. She’s not a comedian at all, but I definitely look up to Michelle Obama, just the way she handled stuff as the first lady, and I wish that I was as well-spoken and as well put together as she is.
Jaelin Kauf, freestyle skier
My mom, definitely. She has always been the most inspirational woman to me and still is. I mean, she’s always pushed the limits and done what people thought was impossible. She was competing in the X-Games when she was 40 — with two kids. I think she’s still the last U.S. female to podium in ski cross. And she proved herself as a female athlete in ski cross and in moguls. She grew up an alpine racer and after college just decided she wanted to ski moguls and I think at her first competition, she blew her knee. But she fought to come back and had a great career. And she’s also always been a big promoter of women’s sports which is something I really admire. I kind of want to be one of those people as well that kind of takes part in growing mogul skiing and encourages young female athletes to be in sports, and I don’t know she’s always just proven — and taught me — that you can do whatever you want, it’s just about working hard and going after what you want.
Additional reporting by Laureen Irat, Kerry Justich, Dana Oliver, Rachel Bender, Alexandra Mondalek, Beth Greenfield, Elise Solé, and Abby Haglage.
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