Our fave outdoor-loving female athletes on the women who continue to inspire them
From skiers turned environmentalists to big sisters to, yes, a couple of inspiring moms
In honour of International Women's Day, we asked 11 of Get Out There's favourite outdoor sport-loving female athletes to tell us about the women that have and continue to inspire them. Today, and every day, we salute you.
Rebecca Frangos, climber, Canadian national team
I first saw Alannah Yip (Canadian climbing national champion, 2020 Olympic team) climb when I attended my Youth World Championships in Austria in 2011 when I was 13. I remember watching her climb in the semi-final lead round with such confidence and I thought to myself “I want to do that one day”. I’ve always looked up to Alannah’s mental fortitude and her ability to perform under pressure. She seems to walk into every event, no matter if it’s a national-level event, a Bouldering World Cup Final or last week’s Olympic Qualifiers and is able to make it count when it matters most. Trust me, from personal experience this is extremely difficult to do consistently. Apart from her amazing athletic achievements, I think what is most inspiring is the fact that she has finished a very demanding engineering degree while competing at the highest level and she still makes time to give back to the community and share her passion for the sport with the kids she coaches.
Rae Cliff, elite Canadian distance runner
My inspirational female athlete is Gabriele Grunewald (runner and founder of @bravelikegabe). She’s someone I look up to both within the sport and outside of it. As an athlete, she accomplished amazing things and I loved watching her race before I knew of her battle with cancer. What I feel is equally inspiring is how she continued to find joy in the sport, and chase her passions even when dealing with the worst adversity someone could imagine. I'll always admire how she continued to enjoy the process, appreciate the opportunities she had and how she kept fighting, no matter what life threw at her.
Morgan McKay, Canadian elite obstacle racer, 2017 Ultra Spartan World champ
A woman that has always really inspired me is an athlete named Deanna Blegg (obstacle racer). I first heard about her when she placed second at World’s Toughest Mudder 24hr Race in 2011. I read an article about her and it mentioned how many obstacles she has overcome in her life, including living with HIV. I was so inspired by her story that I started to attempt long-distance races. I’ve been following her journey ever since and she never stops trying. She battled and overcame breast cancer and still competes as an athlete. She is also one of the nicest and most genuine people that I have ever met. I remember I was racing with her one year and I started to feel really sick, she passed me and she was in the lead to win, she stopped for a moment to ask if I was okay and if she could help. I’ll never forget that moment.
Maggie Guterl is an American ultra runner
Women who inspire me: Connie Gardner and Pam Smith (ultra runners) always come to mind. They are real, down-to-earth humans with real jobs who go out there and crush it. I was in awe of them when I came into this sport. And they are still crushing it to this day. I now call both of them friends and they are rad human beings. Also, they are both hilarious. Bonus quality! The other woman is Michele Yates (ultra runner and coach). She is my coach and I had heard about her right before she started coaching me in 2014. She inspires me now more than ever even though she can only compete a few times a year. She has had so many hurdles and medical issues that would have made most anyone hang up their shoes and give up competing. But she never gives up. You can't slack off when you have a coach leading by example like that. She is so versatile from the Olympic Marathon trials to the course record at Run Rabbit Run 100. That is more than anything due to her work ethic and stubbornness.
Mathea Olin, surfer, Canadian Olympic team
My whole life I’ve looked up to her as a person and how amazing she surfs. She puts effort into her training, effort into giving back and inspiring all the younger female generation. She’s a beam of light where ever she goes and she carries herself in a very inspiring way! Carissa has been one of my biggest inspirations since I could remember!
Miesha Dennis, Brown Girl Outdoor World
What do Teresa Baker, Judith (Juju) Kasiama, Sabrina Ionescu have in common? Beyond their collective drive, passion and commitment, these three women are legends working to increase the representation of women in industries where women are often the underrepresented majority. While Judith and Teresa's work leads them to take up space in the outdoors, Sabrina puts in work on and off the court, breaking records previously held by both men and women in college basketball and proving that women really can do it all.
Diana Lee, Get Out There senior editor
I find professional athletes that combine the love for their sport with doing good for the world the most inspiring. Accomplished professional Canadian snowboarders, Marie-France Roy and Dominique Vallée get out there slopeside but also work towards a healthier tomorrow in different ways. Here's why you should know who they are even if you're not into snowboarding:
Marie-France Roy: Originally from Quebec, Marie-France Roy is known for her backcountry freeriding and freestyle skills and adventures. She also fiercely advocates for the environment through her work with Protect Our Winters and even built her own sustainable, eco-friendly house in BC! In 2014, MFR produced award-winning film The Little Things, which features environmentally-conscious riders in efforts to raise awareness of our changing climate.
Dominique Vallée: Olympian turned doctor, Dominique competed all over the world and had always been connected to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), especially to heal from snowboard injuries or relieve stress. Fast forward some years after competing, Dr. Dominique Vallée now helps people find their healthy balance through TCM.
I met MFR and Dominique several years ago at a women's snowboarding camp. I was not only lucky enough to hit the slopes with them, but I got to see their passion for the sport first-hand and their genuine efforts in raising awareness of the state of our planet or helping people achieve a healthy balance in our lives. Both MFR and Dominique were incredibly supportive when I was totally new to riding in the terrain park and have greatly contributed to the representation of women in the world of snowboarding.
Marie-France Roy and Dominique Vallée are athletes who not only play hard but also work towards making the world a better place in more ways than one.
Emily Jackson-Troutman, American kayaker and freestyle world champion (lead photo)
I choose my mother Kristine Jackson because she went against the social norm and threw us all in an RV to help us pursue our passions. She faced a lot of backlashes but never let it phase her. She was alone as she didn’t know anyone else who did anything similar and she believed in herself and her decision with such unwavering strength. If she ever had any doubts she never let us see them.
Kristine and Emily Jackson with Emily's daughter
Lucia Stafford, University of Toronto Varsity Blues athlete, national champion
When my sister Gabriela was 10, she crossed the finish line at a school track meet and cried to our mother, revealingly, “I just want to be the best in the world at something.” Now, 14 years later, Gabriela is achieving this dream and more, placing sixth at the World Championships with a 1,500-metre time of 3:56 that ranks her among the top 1,500 metre runners of all time.
She’s gone from hoping to make a senior national team, to breaking Canadian records eight times in the span of six months. She’s shifted her goals from wanting to make an Olympic final, to wanting to win an Olympic medal. Although external factors have gone into this success, including good coaching and drive and focus, which Gabriela has in spades, it’s her confidence and ability to ask herself, “Why not?”
Gabriela is like this in all aspects of life, using her passion and her intelligence to constantly evaluate things that happen around her and challenge them. She’s very open about her opinions and struggles, showing that vulnerability is an important quality that should be nurtured and that living outside your comfort zone is where the most growth happens. If anything, Gabriela has taught us that this sport is not only about seeing how fast your legs can move but how fast your brain and heart can will your legs to go. Gabriela has shown us that, for her, it’s pretty damn fast.
Faye Stenning, professional obstacle racer, Grit Coaching
Jess O'Connell as she embodies a true champion! She has had far from a perfect journey as she chases another Olympic team but she has remained positive despite injury setbacks and continues to put her head down to work and get the job done even at the hardest of times. Even in high stress and uncertain situations she never complains nor shows an ounce of entitlement. She's a role model to the athletes we coach because she embodies what excellence is all about, consistent effort every single day with no shortcuts.
Emily Hawgood is a Zimbabwean ultra trail runner
So the one lady in my life that inspires me more than anything is my mum (Christine Hawgood). She taught me to see the beauty in the outdoor world around me, notice the flowers, capture the sunset and sunrise and hear the birds and animals calls carried through the breeze. She loves where she is always and the people she gets to share time with!
Christine and Emily Hawgood