Star-studded night for ‘Celebration of Women in Sports’

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SARASOTA — Five women who have made a lasting mark in the world of sports were honored on Oct. 20 during the second annual Women’s Sports Museum Gala at Michael’s on the Bay.

Held at the beautiful Sarasota Bayfront venue at Selby Gardens, four athletes and a sports journalists received inaugural Trailblazer Awards from the museum, which is in the planning stages.

The following women were honored:

Trailblazer Visionary: CBS sports journalist Lesley Visser accepted her honor via video and pledged support for the museum. Read more about Lesley Visser.

Trailblazer MVP: Mountain biker and extreme fitness athlete Rebecca Rusch received the honor for her career. Rusch paid homage to the film film “Blood Road,” which documented her quest to ride the Ho Chi Minh Trail and find the wreckage of the plane crash where her father died in the Vietnam War. Read the Herald-Tribune’s story on Rusch here.

Trailblazer Courage Award: Donna Cheek received the award in recognition of her groundbreaking equestrian career, in which she was the first African American to compete for the U.S. in international competition. Read the Herald-Tribune’s story on Cheek, here.

Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award: Tennis player and longtime coach Ann Koger was recognized for her career as a player, coach and athletic director at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. Read more about Koger’s career and accomplishments here.

Community All-Star Award: Women’s Sports Museum founder Sue Zipay was recognized for her athletic achievements, including playing for the Rockford Peaches in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Zipay was joined at the gala by two fellow female baseball players. She also had a long career as a tennis player and teaching pro in Florida. Read the Herald-Tribune’s story about Zipay, here.

Nick Bollettieri, founder of  IMG Academy, spoke in support of female athletes commanding equal pay and pledged $2,000 toward the museum. He helped raise additional funds by offering tennis lessons at the Bradenton tennis academy.

A live auction conducted by Michael Klauber and a silent auction raised thousands toward the cause, to build the first and only standalone museum dedicated to women in sports.

Check out a Gala photo gallery from Cliff Roles of the Sarasota Observer.