espnW, Northwestern Mutual honor women athletes at its IMPACT25 Gala

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By ERIKA HARDISON

espnW and Northwestern Mutual honored 25 female athletes and high-profile influencers during the IMPACT25 Gala last week. Guests included Simone Biles, Misty Copeland, Elena Delle Donne, Chloe Kim, Carli Lloyd, Jessica Mendoza, Ronda Rousey, Breanna Stewart, Serena Williams, Kirsten Gillibrand and members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team.

Marvel Comics also played an intricate part in the event by creating comic book covers for each honored athlete. ESPN's Hannah Storm was the host for the evening and awarded Special Olympics athlete Olivia Quigley, who took home the first-ever Pegasus Award of Inspiration, which honors her perseverance, accomplishments and will during her battle with stage four breast cancer.

Guests were entertained by Grace Potter, lead vocalist of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and best known for singing with Kenny Chesney on the hit duet, "You and Tequila." Dinner was also provided which included fillet mignon, open bar and dessert.

Despite the busy evening, I had to opportunity to talk to Laura C. Gentile, founder of espnW.

Q. Being you are the founder, what made you feel that there needed to be a space where women in sports needed their accomplishments highlighted and stories told?

A. I have the benefit of being a lifelong athlete and working in the sports industry, and over time it just became pretty clear and obvious that there really was a need for a place for women in terms of the storytelling, in terms of the issues that women care about, in terms of spotlighting female athletes and their accomplishments and really a place to highlight a place for women's sports. We are at that point, I think, in our culture where women are playing sports like men and like never before. It's really a big opportunity for ESPN to be that home for women.

Q. Do you think other sports publications will follow suit with focusing on women athletes and their achievements?

A. I do. I'm really proud that ESPN is at the forefront of it but it really is clear that women are the future. Women are playing like never before, girls are playing like never before and women want a voice. It's really about where the world is going. Women want a voice in the sports world just like women want a voice in politics. Like they want it in their communities and so sports it's the next sort of realm where women are going to be leaders.

Q. Who are some of your favorite athletes?

A. You can't help but respect trailblazers like Billie Jean King and Jackie Joyner Kersee, so growing up it was really important to have role models. They were some of the people that really spoke out and spoke their mind.

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