Caster Semenya Is One of the World’s Greatest Athletes—But She Has to Fight to Be Considered Female

Caster Semenya, the record-scorching South African runner with a stride like a bionic woman, is killing it on the track. She’s run through record after record, barrier after barrier, stopping for nothing. Then she was disqualified from competing—at least, as a female athlete. In May, Semenya lost her appeal against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) after the governing body banned her from competing in the women’s events. Her crime? Having naturally high testosterone levels.

Semenya’s fight over her hormone levels started in 2009 after she won the semi-final race in the 800-meter dash at the World Championships. After her victory—right before the final—the IAAF made her submit to “gender verification testing.” She competed in the final, smoking her competition, but after the race was over, she was suspended by the IAAF from competing for nearly a year.

In 2011 the IAAF established official rules restricting athletes with hyperandrogenism, like Semenya. The organization argues that high testosterone levels, even when they occur naturally, give athletes an unfair advantage—more powerful muscle-building capability and oxygen-carrying capacity. Since then Semenya has been locked in an ongoing battle of appeals, suspensions, and changing rules. But in May the IAAF finally issued a ruling that could end her meteoric career. After the Court of Arbitration for Sport reviewed her appeals, it was decided: Semenya was banned from competing in women’s events unless she lowered her natural testosterone levels.

To keep competing as a woman—i.e. as her natural, biological self—she’d have to undergo hormone treatment, sort of like reverse doping. It’s a stunning verdict: The IAAF is arguing that for the sake of fairness, the best competitor on the field needs to be drugged. To be altered. To be slowed down. Usain Bolt would never hear such a suggestion. “It destroys you mentally and physically,” Semenya said in a recent press conference. “Then you feel like you’re not welcome.”

Women’s bodies are constantly policed—we’re told what we can and cannot do; what we can and cannot wear; and now, apparently, what hormones and in what quantities we can and cannot produce. As if that’s at all voluntary. Someone call Margaret Atwood; the Handmaid’s Tale sequel could write itself. Semenya’s case calls into question how we define gender—and what it means to be a woman.

This Female Sports Agent Is Out to Break Up the Boys’ Club at the NFL Draft

When sports agent Nicole Lynn was invited to the 2019 NFL Draft with her client Quinnen Williams, she had one problem: She had no idea what to wear. A Google search was unhelpful, showing page after page of men in suits. The occasional women that popped up were wives, girlfriends, and moms—not women like Lynn who were there to work. “I panicked,” Lynn wrote on Instagram. “Do I wear a suit? A dress? Heels or no heels? I had no clue.”

In the 83-year history of the NFL Draft, only two other female agents have had a first-round draft pick (no wonder she couldn’t find any outfit inspo), but thanks to Lynn, that’s starting to change. In April the 30-year-old sports agent became the third woman—and the first black woman ever—to rep a first-round draft pick when Williams was drafted to the Jets with the number-three pick in the league.

She had just become a game changer. But Lynn still felt out of place.

“I was the only female agent in the room,” she says. Yahoo Sports reported in May that of the nearly 800 agents registered with the NFL, only 41 were women, according to the NFLPA. Of that fraction, barely half had a client on a current NFL roster. That puts Lynn in a club with less than 3% of all NFL agents. “I was excited to be there, but there was still this gut-wrenching feeling, like, I’m not supposed to be here,” she says. “As a woman in this industry, we’re always fighting for a seat at the table. But it seems when we finally get there, we feel like we’re not supposed to be at the table.”

Lynn knew from a young age she wanted to work with professional athletes, but there were scarcely any women—let alone women of color—in the business of sports. Those who were weren’t exactly enjoying Ballers-level status or recognition. The lack of role models wasn’t lost on her. “It’s hard to know what jobs are actually in sports because there’s not a ton of exposure of women doing those jobs,” Lynn says. “It’s such an uphill battle to be a sports agent in general, and more difficult being a woman, and I would say two times as difficult being a black woman and under the age of 30.” People thought her dream job was crazy. “I never really listened to the noise—and there was a lot of it. I think that is one of the reasons I am where I am,” she says. “I knew that it was possible, and I was going to keep doing it until I reached my goal.”

In 2015 she finally did, signing her first client. “He did not make an NFL team, but it was just exciting because he was the first player that ever believed in me,” Lynn says. “I never made a dollar off him, but to this day that’s still one of my biggest accomplishments.”

Alysia Montaño Has a Message for Sports: You Can Be a Champion and a Mom

Alysia Montaño is “that pregnant runner.” At eight months pregnant, she ran the 800-meter race in the 2014 USATF championships, pink tank top barely stretching to cover her pregnant belly. Jaws dropped. Montaño might not have placed, but it didn’t matter; a new kind of legend was born. “It was this great empowering moment,” Montaño says. “Like, Wow I’m able to use my brain and also I have a uterus. That’s crazy! My brain still works, and my legs still work, and my body is this incredible, capable, physical machine as well as being able to grow a human.”

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

But before Montaño decided to race, she was worried about something else: her contract. For a sponsored athlete, pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery mean time away from competition—leave that typically isn’t covered by an athlete’s contract. “Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Phoebe Wright, a runner formerly sponsored by Nike, told the New York Times in May.

During her first pregnancy Montaño was terrified of telling her sponsor. But she says a woman on the team at ASICS reassured her she had nothing to worry about. “I felt so much relief. At first, I was like, ‘This is how we should be able to come to our sponsors,’” Montaño says. She ran, went to events, did a photo shoot—pretty much business as usual. But an official clause protecting her against performance reductions while she was pregnant wasn’t actually written into her contract, she says. “When the woman at ASICS left, the first thing they did was look at my performance from that year I was pregnant and say, ‘Well, within this contract, you didn’t meet the standards, based on performance, and we’re going to reduce you,’” Montaño alleges.

Coach Katie Sowers Wants to Solve the NFL’s Woman Problem

“It’s still somewhat unreal to me,” Sowers says. “I’m not doing anything to be ‘the first’ or even ‘the second’ or to be any type of headline—I’m doing it because this is my passion. I have a true passion for teaching everyone else that they can also follow their passion regardless of their gender, regardless of their race, regardless of who they are.”

This season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added two full-time female coaches to its staff—a league record. The pattern looks promising, but the reality is, the presence of female coaches in football is still shaky. Of the five women to ever coach in the NFL, Sowers—who is also the league’s first and only openly LGBTQ coach—is the only one to have lasted more than a single season.

“In my opinion it’s a societal issue, it’s not just an NFL issue,” Sowers says. “It’s this crazy power dynamic that we have with this society: We think that women are submissive to men. We fear the idea of femininity. We say, ‘Oh, you hit like a girl.’ I think the time is coming when we’re going to see more and more people feeling that they can be authentic and be themselves.”

She’s looking forward to the day when she’s no longer asked how the guys on the team treat her as a woman leading men. Implication: Male pro athletes will not seriously respect a coach who’s a girl. “The truth is, women have been teaching men for years,” she says. “That’s what coaching is—it’s leading people.”

The Future Is…Free of Gender Stereotypes

Sowers may just be one coach in the league—but seeing her on the sidelines is proof for the little girls out there: Football is for girls too. “I actually had to explain to my niece when she was three years old that boys also play football,” Sowers says with a laugh. “She thought that girls only played football because that’s all she saw.”

Finding real equality in sports isn’t just about girls being able to try out for the football team. It’s also about boys being able to go to school wearing Megan Rapinoe jerseys without it being a thing, Sowers says. “It’s about knowing boys can look up to women. Men are not superior—it’s not about striving to be like a man. It’s about striving to be like whoever it is you want to be like regardless of their gender.”

When the next generation of future coaches is looking for a role model, girls—and boys—will want to be just like Coach Sowers.

To the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, a Love Letter

Never has a group of women been so bold in their success—so out in their success—as the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team. Individually these 23 women are top-of-their-game athletes, but put them together on the world stage and they are a force of nature. Basically, they’re the girl gang 2019 needs.

It was clear these women were out to save the world in March when—on International Women’s Day—the entire team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination. They were paid “substantially less” than men in the sport, they alleged, according to an official complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in 2016. But over the past three years, their games have reportedly generated more cold, hard cash than the men’s games, according to financial reports from U.S. Soccer obtained by the Wall Street Journal. This team is proof: Investing in women pays.

When the USWNT won the World Cup this month, the stadium erupted into a chant: “Equal pay! Equal pay!” It likely won’t be long before they get it.

These women are role models not just for what it looks like to win (read dominate) in 2019, but what it looks like to enjoy it. Megan Rapinoe popping champagne at the World Cup victory parade and saying most matter-of-factly, “I deserve this,” is a MOOD. She does deserve this—we all do, dammit.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the tournament the team was criticized for celebrating its goals. In the women’s first game against Thailand, they broke the record for biggest World Cup victory with a final score of 13–0. You don’t have to know a damn thing about sports to know that’s epic. But some commentators—mostly male—had the nerve to suggest the women on the field should lay off. It was clear they had the Thai team beat, so why not stop scoring? Imagine a sports commentator telling LeBron to ease up.

Luckily, the USWNT paid no mind to the haters. Since their victory, their celebrations have been loud and proud—just as they should be. The age of women demurring in their accomplishments is over. Women have every right roar in their success.

“This group is so resilient, so tough, has such a sense of humor, is just so badass,” co-captain Megan Rapinoe said in a speech celebrating the USWNT victory. “There’s just nothing that can faze this group. We’re chillin’, we’re tea sippin’. We got pink hair, purple hair. We have tattoos, dreadlocks. We got white girls and black girls and everything in between. We got straight girls and gay girls. And I couldn’t be more proud.”

These women are role models for a dozen different reasons, but most of all for their ability to take a moment and turn it into a movement. Championships are won every day, but few teams have the power to turn their victories into real change—whether that’s by turning the opposition into teammates or inspiring a generation of women to be bolder and louder than ever before. “Yes, we’re female athletes, but we’re so much more than that. You’re so much more than that,” Rapinoe said. “Be more. Be better. Be bigger than you’ve ever been before.”

Kirstie Ennis Is Climbing the Highest Mountains in the World—While Wearing a Prosthetic Leg

Ennis made a call. A lot of the men and women she served with couldn’t come home or set goals or move forward. She realized, “Just because I’m missing a limb doesn’t mean I can’t.” Ennis decided that if she couldn’t serve in the military, she didn’t want to stop serving. “I decided I was going to move forward with my life and truly live my life for other people, whether it was the people who never made it home, their families, or just people running around thinking that things are impossible when they’re not,” she says. “I used the darkest moments of my life to catapult me into some of the best moments of my life.”

“This crazy one-legged lady is going to go out and climb all these big mountains.”

Ennis’s core drive has always been to help people. “I joined the Marine Corps to protect the people who can’t protect themselves,” she says. “I can’t quite do that anymore, but you know what I can do is I can continue making a positive impact on people’s lives.”

First, she needed to find a way to help herself. So she picked up an unlikely new hobby: mountain climbing.

“I think it’s great to get outside and heal yourself,” Ennis says, “but obviously there’s healing powers of doing things for other people too.” A female combat vet who triumphed over her injuries to climb mountains? Ennis’s story is pure inspiration gold—and she wanted to put it to work. Less than a year after she started climbing, she took on Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest summit in Africa. Not only did she make it to the top; she used her climb to help raise $150,000 for clean water for the local community. “People were watching and paying attention to this crazy one-legged lady that was going to go out and climb all these big mountains—that solidified this idea that when I go over to these other countries, I want to do something for the local people there,” she says. “I don’t just want to go over there, use their department of tourism to climb a mountain, and then say I’m out. I want there to be purpose and passion behind my climbs.”

Soon she had a plan: climb each of the Seven Summits—the highest peak on each of the seven continents—and dedicate each climb to raising awareness and money for nonprofits that support education, opportunity, and healing in the outdoors. Since establishing the Kirstie Ennis Foundation in 2018, Ennis has issued over $70,000 in grants for nonprofits benefiting veterans, women, and the disabled population. The foundation also runs outdoor clinics that help to expose underserved populations and minority groups to outdoor sports.

So far Ennis’s mission to serve has been successful. Last week she was awarded the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs. “I want to help people, and I want it to be men, women, kids, gender-fluid people, disabled veterans—anybody and everybody,” she says. “I think sharing our stories provides the opportunity for a lot of people to look at their lives a little bit differently.”

“A special breed.”

Climbing is about independence and resilience, especially for someone whose very existence has depended upon the drive to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. “I love the physical aspect of [mountain climbing], challenging myself, and really proving to myself what I’m capable of,” she says. “I just decided I wanted to keep it going, and then, more importantly, I wanted to keep it going as a means to raise money for deserving nonprofits.”

Everest, however, was a particularly special breed of challenge. News of dangerous overcrowding and a high death toll cast a shadow on the 2019 climbing season. “I learned so much about myself,” Ennis says. “Being at that extreme altitude in thin air, it really is about convincing yourself to even consider putting one foot in front of the other. In those moments when I wanted to give up and when I was out there in the death zone struggling and miserable, I thought about all of the people that were watching. There’s a reason that there hasn’t been a female above-knee amputee out there before—it’s one of the most humbling and empowering feelings at the same time.”

Ultimately, Ennis doesn’t want to set records as the only woman with a disability like hers to summit Everest—she hopes she’ll be just one of many. “People shouldn’t be totally shocked by seeing Kirstie out there on one leg,” she says. “I like to think that by doing this, I’m hopefully setting a precedent from someone who is watching me…that I’m breaking down barriers to show people that [people with disabilities] can be out there. Hopefully, they’re going to think that they can do it too and that they can do it better than me.” Hopefully, they’re going to go out and try.

Ashleigh Barty Was On Top of Her Game—Then She Quit

Ashleigh Barty is on top. After dominating the court at the French Open, she outpaced Naomi and Serena and Venus and Sloane to become the number-one female tennis player in the world. But three years ago she wasn’t even in the game.

Barty went pro at 14 and won the Wimbledon junior title at 15—the word prodigy often followed her name. She was quickly anointed as the next great Australian tennis player on her way to GOAT-status when, at 18, she unexpectedly left the game. “As professional tennis players, we are on the road for 30 weeks of the year. It can be tough when you love home as much as I do,” Barty says.

Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Professional athletes, for all their natural abilities, are serious workaholics. After all, to win championships you have to get into the office early and stay late. Every damn day. Given that she’d spent her teens as a perfectionist in a high-stress job, it’s no wonder Barty was burned out and wrestling with depression. So she quit.

In her time away from tennis, Barty sought treatment for depression and casually took up another pro sport: cricket. Refreshed after an 18-month break, she returned to the court, resuming her rise in the ranks and eventually earning a Grand Slam title and the number-one spot earlier this year. Had she not stepped away from tennis to take care of her mental health, there’s no way she’d be here, she told the New York Times. “It’s obviously a part of my life that I needed to deal with, and I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time,” she said. “It was an even better one to come back.”

In being so open about her decision to step away, Barty has become a new kind of role model in sports—one who proves it’s not all about a breakneck rush to be the best. Now “it is all about balance for me,” Barty says. “I try to get home to Queensland whenever I can to see my family and friends—this is the most important thing for me.”

As much as her Grand Slam titles or her rankings, that will be part of Ashleigh Barty’s legacy. “I hope my legacy,” she says, “is to be remembered as someone who remained true to herself.”

Macaela MacKenzie is a senior editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram at @MacaelaMac and Twitter at @MacaelaMack.

The Women of the WNBA Are Fighting for Their Slice of The Multibillion-Dollar Basketball Industry

It’s like the Chaka Khan song, Chiney interjects, riffing “I’m Every Woman”: “We really have every woman, every single woman represented in the league.”

The WNBA still has a long way to go to build up a fanbase as big as that of the men’s league—
the 2018 All Star game drew just a little more than 700,000 viewers. But as they work to grow the game, they’re asking for a fair playing field: resources befitting world-class athletes, investment in the league—and fair pay. “Every player who plays for WNBA plays for the respect of the game, the love of the game, the legacy, but we also are part of a business,” Chiney says, “a business that we want to grow.”

Ultimately, they want the chance to inspire investors, sponsors, media partners, and little girls to believe in the WNBA as much as they do. “It’s a male-dominated industry, but I hope that our legacy will be showing young girls and young women that we can do anything,” Chiney says. “Like, there’s no limit to what you can do on the court—and there’s no limit to what you can do off the court.”

Macaela MacKenzie is a senior editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @MacaelaMac and Twitter @MacaelaMack.

This year has made one thing clear: women are showing up, stepping up, and taking what they deserve. From politics to pop culture, women aren’t just leveling the playing field, they’re owning it. As we ramp up to our annual Women of the Year summit, we will be highlighting women across industries who do the work every day. Whether it’s the CEO of a multinational retail corporation, a James Beard Award-winning chef, or the World Cup champions, here are the women you need to know right now. First up: 10 profiles of women who are making their mark on the world of sports, where female athletes and businesswomen are fighting it out for championships, equal pay, and culture-shifting change. Spoiler alert: they’re winning.

See all of Glamour’s Women of the Year All Year: Sports.

Kylie Jenner Just Got Very Real About Motherhood, Anxiety, and ‘Losing Friends’

The Kardashian-Jenners have become so omnipresent in our lives—thanks to 16 seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, constant social media updates, and their myriad brands—that it can sometimes feel like we know everything about their lives. Obviously, that’s not altogether true, and Kylie Jenner just proved it with her most recent Instagram post.

In a rare moment of raw emotional honesty, the youngest sister in the crew opened up about her own struggles with anxiety, especially after giving birth to her daughter, Stormi, last February. “I’m proud of myself, my heart, and my strength. growing up in the light with a million eyes on you just isn’t normal,” she wrote in the caption, which follows a photo of her looking out at the ocean at sunset. “I’ve lost friends along the way and I’ve lost myself too sometimes.”

“My first tattoo was ‘sanity’ to remind myself everyday to keep it,” she continued. ‘I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole young adult life and after my baby i dealt with all the internal ups and downs. I felt like i had to find myself completely again.”

Jenner, who was only 10 when KUWTK premiered in 2007, is certainly one of the most guarded members of her family. She went on to address that fact, as well as sending a message—both to herself and her followers—to cut themselves some slack. “I keep a whole lot to myself but just wanted to share and let you know I’m human,” she said. “My life is not perfect and what you see here on social media is just the surface. be gentle with yourself, move on, and let go. we are all capable of great things, worthy of love, and allowed to express ourselves. do more of what makes you happy and be unapologetic. now is your season ✨ we all have a magnificent destiny.”

Here’s her message in full:

“I’m proud of myself, my heart, and my strength. growing up in the light with a million eyes on you just isn’t normal. I’ve lost friends along the way and I’ve lost myself too sometimes. my first tattoo was “sanity” to remind myself everyday to keep it. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole young adult life and after my baby i dealt with all the internal ups and downs. I felt like i had to find myself completely again. I keep a whole lot to myself but just wanted to share and let you know I’m human. my life is not perfect and what you see here on social media is just the surface. be gentle with yourself, move on, and let go. we are all capable of great things, worthy of love, and allowed to express ourselves. do more of what makes you happy and be unapologetic. now is your season ✨ we all have a magnificent destiny.”

The Bachelorette Season 15, Episode 10 Recap: A Note on Tyler, Luke, and Sex in the Fantasy Suites

Sadly, that’s where the positive moments of the episode end because the final two dates are with Jed and Luke. Jed goes first, but he and Hannah spend most of their time talking about Luke. If you’re this close to finding your future husband, he asks, why keep someone you’re uncertain about around? She stumbles over her answer before finally telling Jed that she and Luke have a connection; she knows it’s hard to understand, but he’ll have to respect it. “You’ve got to let me figure it out,” she says.

Over dinner, she thanks him for bringing up the Luke stuff. Jed admits it’s hard for him to understand how she can be falling in love with him but still holding onto someone who’s been toxic to her and everyone else. It makes him wonder if there are other bad situations she won’t let go of out in the real world. “I’m just really freaking sure about you, and I don’t want to be unsure,” he says. She gets so frustrated at that she leaves the table.

When they both sit back at the table, Jed insists that he trusts her decisions and has her back no matter what. Hannah says his conversation scared her, but ultimately it shows her that he cares. They go to the fantasy suite.

The next day, Hannah and Luke take a helicopter to Santorini. It’s fairly uneventful, though I did a spit take when Luke, a man who told Hannah that he was falling in love with her on their second date, says he doesn’t take “dropping the L word” lightly.

Their dinner that night starts off well enough, until Luke opens his mouth. “I want to make sure that from now on things are known how they’re supposed to be,” he says. “So let’s talk about sex.” Sex is a beautiful thing only when it’s in the “guidelines of a marriage,” he says. He concedes that he’s been abstaining from sex for almost four years—and he knows she’s not a virgin either—but he wants to know that she won’t be having sex with the other guys in the fantasy suites. He adds he’d “100%” go home if she did.

While I screamed at my television and threw my phone across the couch in horror, Hannah keeps her cool. “Sex is a very big deal to me,” she replies. That said, she doesn’t agree with him. “The way that you just said that…it’s like, why do you have the right to do that because you’re not my husband,” she explains. She feels he’s judging her when he doesn’t have the right too. “Pride is a sin too, and I feel like this is a pride thing.”