Game Changers is a nine-month project that originated with Sammy Jo Hester, whose job as Times sports photo editor gives her a daily window into the delta between men’s and women’s sports coverage. A climber, a surfer, a runner herself, the 28-year-old Hester is constantly looking for fresh ways to tell the story of the women whose performative brilliance too often goes uncaptured by the pen or camera lens.
She found those messengers in Times photographer Christina House and columnist Helene Elliott. House shot 23 of the 32 women whose advocacy and athleticism are celebrated in these pages.
Elliott wrote 10 of the profiles that appear in this section. She very well could have been a story subject herself, as the first female journalist to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of a major professional sport. In 2005 Elliott won the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, bestowed upon writers “who have brought honour to journalism and to hockey.”
Hester, House and Elliott — together with a team of about 30 writers, editors, designers and developers — have assembled a formidable lineup, through whom much of the history of the modern female athlete can be told. They include:
• Simone Biles, America’s most decorated gymnast.
• Kim Rhode, the double trap and skeet shooting champion and six-time Olympic medal winner.
• Kerri Walsh Jennings, the longtime face of beach volleyball and a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
• Nneka Ogwumike, the Sparks star forward position and president of the WNBA players union.
• Kayla Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo and now a top name in mixed martial arts.
This special section bridges generations, from the trailblazing Billie Jean King to gymnastics superstar Biles, who for her accomplishment and fame, still must reach deep “to summon the confidence to speak out.” “Coretta Scott King had a great quote about freedom,” Billie Jean King told Elliott. “It’s never won. Every generation has to earn it and win it. Every generation has to keep putting the pedal to the metal. That’s why it’s important that I support the younger generation.”
We have picked this particular date to give witness to these sportswomen and their stories. Today is International Women’s Day and this month is Women’s History Month. Women’s March indeed.