When Misty May-Treanor’s mother passed away from cancer in 2002, the beach volleyball star wanted to walk away from the sandy court and never look back. She did not think it would be possible to find any joy competing without her mother there to witness her accomplishments.
However, instead of walking away, she looked around and realized that she was surrounded by enough inspiration to fulfill the promise that her mother saw in her.
“My mom always wanted me to be the best, and she saw Kerri [Walsh] and me as Olympic champions,” said May-Treanor. “The sport became a release for me.”
She went on to win gold with her volleyball partner Walsh in the Athens summer games in 2004 and then in Beijing in 2008. And now, she finds herself as the inspiration for female athletes across the world.
May-Treanor was the keynote speaker at the 13th Annual Women in Sports Day at St. John’s University on Saturday, February 27. The day celebrated women’s achievements in the field of sports, and also served to highlight breast cancer awareness through the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Pink Zone.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist cites the memory of her mother and her father’s philosophy of playing for those who cannot as the major forces behind her willingness to be a role model.
“I did not wake up one day and decide to be a role model,” said May-Treanor. “I like to play for those who have daily challenges, the people who would love to trade places with me for a day. My sport gives me that platform.”
Her sport also gives her more appreciative for the national anthem. She stands a little straighter now when she attends baseball or hockey games, and often thinks back to the feeling of standing on the platform, accepting golden acclamation.
“That one moment in time, no matter who you try to explain it to, just you and the other person involved are the only ones that can feel that true emotion,” she said. “But it’s not just a gold medal for us because without the entire country’s support, we would not have made it there.”
May-Treanor attempts now to return that support and inspire young female athletes realize their dreams and also appreciate the hard-fought acceptance that women have gained in sports.
“I want to share and inspire women to go on and do something great,” she said. “And just let them know that anything is possible.”