Serena Williams Talks Preparing To Face ‘Incredible Opponent’ Naomi Osaka
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Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka hugging after a tennis match

Serena Williams praised Naomi Osaka as an “incredible opponent” in a press conference on Tuesday as the two tennis superstars prepare to play each other in the semifinals of the 2021 Australian Open on Thursday.

After defeating Romania’s Simona Halep in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, Williams answered questions about how she felt about her upcoming match against Japan’s Osaka during a post-match interview.

“I feel good, I feel like … I’m here, I’m happy to be here, and I gotta keep going, that’s obviously the goal,” Williams said. “Obviously, I have an incredible opponent to play, so it’ll be nice to hopefully keep raising the level of my game – I’m going to have to.”

Elsewhere in the news conference, Williams remarked that Osaka is a “very strong player.”

“I feel like she does everything well, she has a good serve, she has a great return, she’s strong on both sides,” Williams added. (See the full clip below.)

Williams and Osaka memorably played each other at the 2018 U.S. Open, when umpire Carlos Ramos controversially issued Williams three code violations. Osaka defeated Williams in that match, scoring her first Grand Slam title.

Furor surrounding the infamous match overshadowed Osaka’s win at the time, and the event fueled a wave of racist and sexist attacks against Williams.

Williams addressed the controversial match in a 2019 essay for Harper’s Bazaar, sharing a note she sent to Osaka that read, in part:

“I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again. I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete.”

During an on-court interview at the Australian Open on Tuesday, Williams commended Osaka for being both a strong player and an inspirational person off the court.

“It’s so good to see just someone that is so inspiring on both things,” she added.

Osaka, 23, who grew up idolizing Williams, 39, noted during a post-match interview this week that she always “watches Serena’s matches.”

Williams is seeking her 24th Grand Slam singles title, which would tie Margaret Court’s record, including the 13 Court won before the Open era.

Naomi Osaka cruises to Australian Open title, claiming her FOURTH Grand Slam and second triumph at Melbourne Park
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A Herculean effort was required to stage the 2021 Australian Open and navigate many of the pandemic restrictions. But the tournament still provided high-quality matches and produced two incredible champions in Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic.

With a delayed start, quarantine woes and the reemergence of the fans (then their absence and return yet again), Tennis Australia managed the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus as best as possible and continued to build on the successes of the 2020 US Open and French Open. There were upsets, miraculous runs by unknowns and thrilling on-court battles.

If there’s one thing the tournament made perfectly clear, it’s that, much like its predecessor, the 2021 season will be full of constant change — on and off the court.

Here are some key takeaways from the year’s first major.

The 23-year-old left little doubt about her current place in women’s tennis with another dominant performance. Defeating Jennifer Brady in the final, Osaka notched her fourth major title, tying her with Kim Clijsters and trailing just Serena and Venus Williams among active players — and is now on a 21-match win streak.

While her straight-set victory over Serena Williams in the semifinals garnered most of the attention during her run in Melbourne, it was perhaps her match against two-time Slam champion Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round that was the most impressive. Pushed to the brink in the third set and down 5-3, Osaka staved off two match points and never looked back. She won the next three games and advanced, ultimately becoming the eighth woman in the Open era to win the Australian Open after saving a match point.

With her latest triumph, as well as her current activism and celebrity off the court, Osaka is unquestionably the new face of the sport. But she doesn’t seem particularly fazed.

“Honestly, I don’t really think too much about it,” she said on Sunday. “For me, I just focus on myself and what I can do. So I don’t really put too much pressure on myself in that way.”

Read the full article at ESPN.

Breaking Barriers: Female Bucs Coaches, NFL Referee Make History
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collage of two female nfl coaches and a referee

On Super Bowl Sunday, three women — two coaches and an NFL official — broke barriers when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinched their second championship title.

Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl in NFL history. Thomas served as the down judge in the game, which oversees the line of scrimmage, manages the chain gang, rules on sideline plays, counts offensive players and reminds the head referee of the current down.

Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar became the first female coaches on a team to win the Super Bowl, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 Sunday night.

The 30-year-old Javadifar is an assistant strength and conditioning coach, and the 56-year-old Locust is an assistant defensive line coach.

“History was made tonight!” tennis champion and social justice champion Billie Jean King tweeted.

Locust and Javadifar have worked two seasons on the staff of coach Bruce Arians. Soon enough, they’ll get their Super Bowl rings, just like Tom Brady and the rest of the Buccaneers.

“If you can teach, you can coach,” Arians said last week. “As far as the women, it was time. It was time for that door to be knocked down and allow them because they’ve been putting in time, and they’re very, very qualified. The ones we have are overly qualified.”

Last season, Katie Sowers became the first female to coach in a Super Bowl. She was an offensive assistant for the San Francisco 49ers in their loss to the Chiefs.

The Buccaneers were the only NFL team with two female coaches on their staff this season.

“I do look forward to the day that it’s no longer newsworthy to be a woman working in the pros or making the Super Bowl for that matter,” Javadifar said last week. “And, you know, I hope we get to a point where all people are afforded equal opportunities to work in professional sports because there are a lot of great qualified coaches out there.”

Washington Football Team Makes Jennifer King NFL’s First Black Female Coach
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Jennifer King close side profile wearing Washington Football team uniform

By Chris Bumbaca for USA Today

As the NFL endures arguably its most disappointing hiring cycle in terms of diversity, a sliver of good news emerged Thursday night.

Multiple reports said the Washington Football Team will promote Jennifer King to the full-time staff, making her the first Black female assistant in the league.

King had served as a full-year intern this past season who worked with running backs coach Randy Jordan.

(Image Credit – USA Today)

Washington head coach Ron Rivera first hired her as an intern with the Carolina Panthers in 2018, allowing her to spend time at the Panthers’ training camp for two seasons before Rivera hired her again, this time with Washington in 2020. She was also an assistant wide receivers coach with the Arizona Hotshots in the Alliance of American Football.

King’s new role, per the reports, will be offensive assistant.

The number of female coaches has increased over the last several seasons, and King will be the fourth full-time female staff member in league history.

King has already helped make her share of history on the sidelines. In September, she was part of the first NFL game with females on both sidelines (the Cleveland Browns’ Callie Brownson) and a female official (Sarah Thomas, who will be a part of the Super Bowl crew). The NFC Wild Card matchup between Washington and Tampa Bay, with King and Buccaneers coaches Lori Locust (assistant defensive line coach) and Maral Javadifar (assistant strength and conditioning coach), marked the first postseason game with female coaches on both sidelines.

Read the full article at USA Today.

Sarah Thomas to Be 1st Female to Officiate at Super Bowl
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Sarah Thomas on the field wearing NFL referee uniform

By KEYC News

Sarah Thomas will cap her sixth NFL season by becoming the first female to officiate the Super Bowl in NFL history.

Thomas, a down judge, is part of the officiating crew announced Tuesday by the NFL.

“Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official,” said Troy Vincent, Sr., the NFL’s executive vice resident of football operations. “Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her

(Image Credit – NFL Twitter)

the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor.”

Referee Carl Cheffers will lead the seven-person crew of on-field game officials for the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Cheffers has been a game official for 21 seasons in the NFL and was promoted to referee in 2008. He has worked 17 playoff games, including the Super Bowl in 2017.

The crew includes umpire Fred Bryan, line judge Rusty Baynes, field judge James Coleman, side judge Eugene Hall, back judge Dino Paganelli and replay official Mike Wimmer. The crew has 88 years of NFL experience with 77 combined playoff games.

This will be the first Super Bowl for Coleman as well as Thomas and second for Cheffers, Bryan, Baynes, Hall and Paganelli.

“Their body of work over the course of a 17-game season has earned them the honor of officiating the biggest game on the world’s biggest stage,” Vincent said. “They are the best of the best.”

Continue to the original article at KEYC News.

Red Sox hiring Bianca Smith as first Black female pro baseball coach
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Bianca Smith smiles wearing a baseball jersey

Bianca Smith is making baseball history.

The Red Sox are hiring Smith as a minor league coach, according to the Boston Globe.

MLB confirmed to the Globe that Smith will be the first black woman ever to coach baseball at the professional level.

Smith, who most recently was an assistant baseball coach and hitting coordinator at Carroll University (Wisc.,) will primarily work with infielders at the Red Sox’s minor league facility in Fort Meyers, Fla.

“She was a great candidate coming in,” Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett told the Globe. “She’s had some really interesting experiences and has been passionate about growing her skill set and development herself.”

Smith has interned in the baseball operations departments of the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds and worked in amateur administration for MLB. She played softball at Dartmouth from 2010-12 before working as director of baseball operations at Case Western Reserve University from 2013-17 and as an assistant coach with University of Dallas in 2018, according to the Globe.

Smith’s hiring is a barrier-breaker.

“It’s a meaningful, meaningful thing for the organization,” Crockett told the Globe.

The San Francisco Giants made Alyssa Nakken baseball’s first full-time female major league coach earlier this year, promoting her to assistant coach. She became the first woman to coach on-field in an MLB game in July, coaching first base during an exhibition game.

Continue on to The New York Post to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: New York Post

Simone Biles Makes History by Nailing Two Signature Moves — and One Is Now Named After Her
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Simone Biles posing on gymnatict floormat after performance smiling with hand in the air

Simone Biles has done it again!

The decorated gymnast made history on Saturday at the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany, by successfully landing the triple-double during her floor routine and then the double-double dismount on the balance beam.

The moves earned Biles, 22, huge applause from the audience. USA Gymnastics confirmed on Twitter that the impressive feat ensures the triple-double will be named the Biles II, in honor of the athlete.

Biles already has two moves named for her, one in the floor exercise and one on a vault, according to CNN.

Last week, the gymnast explained why she refrains from calling herself a “superstar” gymnast despite her incredible success.

“If I were to label myself as a superstar, it would bring more expectations on me and I would feel pressured, more in the limelight, rather than now,” Biles explained during a press conference before the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Germany.

“I just go out there and compete,” she added. “I try to represent Simone… not ‘Simone Biles’ whenever I go out there, because at the end of the day, I’m still a human being before I’m ‘Simone Biles, the superstar.’”

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

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