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'Annual Salute to Women in Sports' goes virtual, honors athletes pushing for equality and justice

Posted at 6:10 AM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 09:10:39-04

This year, the "Annual Salute to Women in Sports" is going virtual.

For the first time, the event will be streamed online for free. Those who will be recognized this year include the athletes and leaders who are using their voices and platforms to push for equality and justice.

Alana Nichols is no stranger to adversity.

"I started off on a rocky foot, and I had every opportunity to go off the beaten path," Nichols said. "Whether that be drugs and alcohol or whatever that looked like or just hanging out with the wrong people."

But Nichols says, every time, sports would reel her right back in. She was a fastpitch softball star and was on her way to play in college when a snowboarding accident left her paralyzed.

"In a moment my life was changed completely. I was hoping to go to college on a softball college scholarship; I had the world at my fingertips, and all of a sudden, I'm 17 years old and paralyzed," Nichols said.

For a short time, Nichols lost her way without sports. Then, she discovered wheelchair basketball and says that's when she found herself again.

"That's one of the beauties and the magic about sport, is it makes you feel good," she said. "It makes you feel good to move, and everybody, regardless of their ability, should have the right and the opportunity to figure out how to move and to play."

Fast forward to today, and Nichols' athletic resume is stacked: A three-time gold medalist, a dual-sport athlete in wheelchair basketball and alpine skiing, the first female American to win gold in both the summer and winter Paralympic Games.

"Sports absolutely changed my life, and it continues to benefit me in so many ways," Nichols said.

Nichols is also a mother and is the current president of the Women's Sports Foundation, an organization that works to give everyone a chance to play.

"A lot of what we do is look at the general landscape of what's going on for girls and women in sports and asses the needs of what is not being met and help promote equality and justice in the sports world for girls and women," she said.

This year's theme for the Annual Salute to Women in Sports is "Speak with Sport," which 2014 Olympic Ice Dance Champion Meryl Davis describes as celebrating what sports can do for the world.

"The world of sport, women in sport is so important and so getting a chance to come together and celebrate what sport can do for the world, uniting us and inspiring us is particularly important right now," Davis said. "I'm thrilled we'll get together virtually and do that."

Davis started ice skating when she was five. After her Olympic win, she's spent her time traveling, touring and advocating for sports and women in sports.

Like Nichols, she'll be part of the virtual salute, which supports the Women in Sports Foundation and many programs that expand access and opportunities for all girls and women in sports.

"We're hoping to raise $1.3 million, of course, but this gives us an opportunity to reach so many young women that wouldn't have ever been able to see what the women's sports foundation is about," she said.

Nichols says it's the biggest night for Women in Sports, and it's a chance to celebrate the voice they're giving to the voiceless.

The event will take place live on Yahoo Sports on Oct. 14.