Young Women Making Waves in World Sports

By Mary Berg

The Crown (Wilmette, Illinois)

As the 2016 Summer Olympics approaches, elite athletes are training day and night hoping for a shot at a medal. Qualifying competitions are occurring all over the globe as countries prepare their selections. In these situations, it is truly amazing to see teenage women who are able to compete at these levels. Read below to find out more about Olympic athletes who could have been your classmates.

Simone Biles is an 18 year-old world champion artistic gymnast from the United States. Biles won the World Championship in the all-around and floor competitions three years in a row, from 2013 to 2015, and won the balance beam World Championship twice, in 2014 and 2015. She also was a member of the American gold medal team at the World Championship in 2014 and 2015. She is the first woman to ever win an an all-around title three years in a row, and is also the first African-American woman to ever have won an all-around title. Biles has won the most World Championship gold medals in the history of women’s gymnastics, currently holding ten, and also holds the record for the most decorated American World Champion gymnast, with 14 medals. She graduated from high school in 2015, and verbally committed to attending UCLA after the 2016 Olympics.

Katie Ledecky is an 18 year-old Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in swimming. At the age of 15, she competed for the United States in the 2012 Olympics in the 800-meter freestyle. She won the event by over four seconds while being the youngest American competitor at the 2012 Olympic games. However, outshining her Olympic accomplishment was her performance this past summer at the 2015 Swimming World Championship. At this event, Ledecky took the gold in the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle, as weel as the 4×200-meter freestyle relay. Having such a command of both short and long distances is virtually unheard of in competitive swimming. Ledecky was the first woman to ever win the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle in the same competition. At this meet, she also broke her own world records in the 800- and 1500-meter freestyle. Ledecky graduated from Stone Ridge School, an all-girls Catholic school, in 2015, and committed to swim at Stanford. However, she is deferring enrollment until after the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Claressa Shields is a 20-year old Olympic gold medalist in boxing from the United States. At the age of 16, Shields won the Olympic trials, and at 17, she won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in the middleweight class, defeating a Russian opponent twice her age. Shields was the first woman from the United States to ever win a gold medal in the sport of boxing, while also being the youngest boxing competitor at the 2012 Olympic games. After the 2012 Olympic games, she finished her senior year at Flint Northwestern High School in Michigan, where she graduated in 2013. Since then, Shields has won two National Championships in 2014 and 2015, and the World Championship in 2015. She is currently preparing for the 2016 Olypic Games in Rio.

Overall, these women have made great strides for United States athletics, and are role models for every young woman athlete. Their accomplishments are all the more impressive when considering their age, and it is amazing to think about their potential in the future.


Photo courtesy of Jenna Watson/The Star

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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