The year might be over, but these moments will live on forever.
2022 was a special year for women’s sports. Several teams were able to call themselves champions for the first time, countless records were broken, and a number of athletes etched their names in stone as legends. Here’s a look at some of the year’s top moments.
Elana Meyers Taylor Makes History At The Olympics
In February 2022, Elana Meyers Taylor became the most decorated Black Winter Olympian and most decorated woman to ever compete in Olympic Bobsled. What makes the record even more impressive? Meyers Taylor managed to medal in her events despite testing positive for Covid-19 just days before the start of the Olympics. After having to miss the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and her chance to be Team USA’s flagbearer due to her illness, Meyers Taylor was elected by her fellow athletes to serve as the American flagbearer for the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics.
Meyers Taylor is currently taking a break from competition while she is pregnant with her second child, but in an interview with Reuters, indicated that she plans to return to the sport when she is able to. “I will go back to competing afterwards. I still love competing. I still love bobsledding. And I still want to do it until my legs fall off.”
Aliyah Boston Gets To Cry Happy Tears
After suffering a devastating loss in the Final Four in 2021, Aliyah Boston went to work. It paid off when she won a national championship. In addition to that, Boston became the first player to average at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in the tournament for an NCAA champion and won every national player of the year award based on the consistency of her performance as the Gamecocks’ anchor inside on offense and defense.
The national championship marked a special sort of redemption for Boston. After last year’s loss in the Final Four, images of her crying circulated around and became a lasting memory for South Carolina’s disappointment. Boston ended up crying once again in April, but she clarified that they were “happy tears” after the Gamecocks reached the top of the mountain for the first time since she joined the program.
Alyssa Nakken Takes Over Again
Alyssa Nakken is no stranger to making history. In July 2020, Nakken took her place in the Giants’ first-base-coaching box in the final innings of an exhibition game against the A’s, becoming the first woman to coach on the field in MLB history.
On April 12, 2022, she made history again. Taking over for an ejected first-base coach, Nakken became MLB’s first female on-field coach.
Despite the significance of what she had done, Nakken was relatively laid back about her accomplishment. “I think we’re all inspirations doing everything that we do on a day-to-day basis and I think, yes, this carries a little bit more weight because of the visibility, obviously there’s a historical nature to it,” Nakken said. “But again, this is my job.”
The Lionesses Bring It Home
English soccer fans have spent decades dreaming about the day that soccer would come home. For years now, they’ve chanted “it’s coming home” at international soccer tournaments. While many expected it to be the men’s team to deliver England its first soccer title since 1966, it was the women’s team that made history on English soil at the European Championships this summer. On July 31, 2022, the Lionesses ended England’s 56-year wait for a major tournament victory and likely changed the face of women’s soccer in the country forever.
Katie Ledecky Breaks More Records
Just when it seems like Katie Ledecky has done the impossible, she goes and does it again. She was unstoppable in the pool in 2022. Ledecky won gold in the 800-meter freestyle at the FINA World Championships in July, becoming the first swimmer to capture five consecutive world titles in a single event. It was her 42nd straight 800-meter freestyle win, dating back to 2013. Then, in October, Ledecky clocked 15:08.24 in the 1,500-meter freestyle, smashing the previous short course record by almost 10 seconds.
“I didn’t have it as a set goal (to break the World Record),” said the 7-time Olympic champion after the race. “I really didn’t know what to expect coming out of this meet, being my first meet of the season, taking most of August off, getting back into training rhythm, didn’t have any type of super preparation for this meet, just wanted to come in and race international swimmers being a meet in North American soil.”
The 2023 World Aquatics Championships are in Japan, and given how successful she was at the 2020(1) Olympics in Tokyo, Ledecky might just have herself another magical year.
The Las Vegas Aces Win Their First-Ever WNBA Championship
It’s always special when a team wins their first championship. It’s even more special when a former player is the coach that helps make it happen. After another disappointing early playoff exit last season, the Aces offered former franchise legend Becky Hammon a long-term contract worth $1 million per year to convince her to return to the WNBA. It turned out to be one of the best decisions the organization has ever made.
The Aces earned the No. 1 overall seed going into the playoffs with a franchise-record 26 wins and boasted the second-best offense in league history (109.6 offensive rating). Then, on September 18, they beat the Connecticut Sun 78–71 in Game 4 and won the WNBA Finals 3–1, giving the city of Las Vegas its first major professional sports championship. In the process, Hammon made some history of her own by becoming the first former player to win a championship as a head coach and the first WNBA coach to win a title in their first season.
Lauren Jackson Comes Out Of Retirement To Win Bronze In Sydney
Many basketball fans were devastated when Lauren Jackson announced her retirement in 2016. Six years later, she shocked the basketball world by announcing that she would be playing basketball again. The FIBA Women’s World Cup that took place in September and October was a special event for several reasons, but the big story of the tournament was Jackson’s comeback. After almost a nine-year hiatus from the national team, Jackson finished her national team career in the same way that she started it—by earning the Opals a bronze medal. When she took to the court for the final game of the World Cup, it looked like the clock had been turned back. Jackson scored 30 points in Australia’s 95–65 win over Canada, and when she checked out of the game with three minutes left on the clock, the 16,000 fans who were in attendance at the Sydney Superdome rewarded her with a standing ovation.
Steph Gilmore Surfs Her Way To The Top
In September 2022, Australian surfer Stephanie Gilmore won her eighth world title in surfing, breaking her tie with Layne Beachley for most world titles won by a female surfer. Gilmore’s eight world titles, spanning three separate decades (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018, and 2022), are eclipsed only by male surfer Kelly Slater, with eleven. She has also won the most WSL events of any women, with 33, and is the only surfer to win a world title in their debut season.
Gilmore hasn’t ruled out competing in the 2024 Olympics, so she might keep adding to her records in the next few years.
Crystal Dunn and Napheesa Collier Return To Professional Sport
Serena Williams, Allyson Felix, Candace Parker, and Sydney Leroux have already proven that moms are superheroes, and in 2022, Crystal Dunn and Napheesa Collier continued to prove that fact to be true.
When Napheesa Collier sets her mind to accomplishing a goal, it’s difficult to talk her out of it. Just ask Sylvia Fowles. Collier indicated to her teammates on the Minnesota Lynx that she wanted to play alongside Fowles in her final season in the WNBA, and despite Fowles’ concerns about her coming back too early, on August 7, Collier was back in a Lynx uniform. It took her a mere 74 days to be playing basketball again.
Collier wasn’t the only athlete determined to return to their sport this year. 112 days after giving birth to her first child, Crystal Dunn returned to play for the Portland Thorns in the NWSL. Then, on October 5, she returned to play for the United States’ women’s national soccer team on the biggest stage possible in front of over 80,000 spectators against European champions, England, at Wembley Stadium. Finally, to top it all off, Dunn scored the game-winning goal in the NWSL semifinals on October 23 against the San Diego Wave, helping propel her team to the NWSL Championship, where the Thorns lifted the league trophy for a third time.
The PWHPA Has Its First All-Star Game
In early December, the PWHPA had its first-ever All-Star Weekend in Ottawa. Players had a chance to compete in a 3-on-3 tournament and a variety of skills competitions, and tennis legend Billie Jean King was in attendance to do the ceremonial puck drop.
“When we started planning the 2022-23 season, we knew we wanted to elevate the experience for both players and fans,” said Jayna Hefford, PWHPA Operations Consultant. “The All-Star festivities [was] another tremendous platform for our athletes to show just how talented they are—and have some fun while doing it.”
Not all of 2022’s best moments in sports took place on a field or in an arena. There were also historic increases in salary caps, prize money at tournaments, and records set in viewership for almost every sport. Stay tuned for an article on 2022’s top off-the-field/ice/court women’s sports moments!