The World Series of Women’s Sports: 10 Top Athletes Who Call Houston and L.A. Home

Last night the 2017 World Series kicked off between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, with L.A. taking Game 1 at home in Dodger Stadium. And while we love baseball (especially when Jessica Mendoza is in the booth), there’s only so much excitement we can muster for this particular matchup, which can’t compete with the drama and history of last year’s World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. What we can get excited about is this list of 10 amazing female athletes who call Houston or Los Angeles home.

Houston

1. Simone Biles, Gymnastics: Quite possibly the best gymnast the world has ever seen has deep roots in the “Magnolia City.” Biles, who won four gold and five total medals at the Rio Olympics, was born in Columbus, Ohio, where she was in and out of foster homes due to her mother’s struggle with drugs and alcohol. In 2000, Biles made her way to Houston under the care of her grandparents, Ron and Nellie, and has called Texas home since. The Biles family is also helping to ensure Houston remains a gymnastics mecca; in 2016, they opened the World Champions Centre, a gym where Simone just happens to be plotting her grand comeback. Road trip to get eyes on the G.O.A.T. in her natural habitat, anyone?

2. Lindsey Harding, Basketball: A former WNBA star who got her start at Houston’s Cypress-Fairbanks High School, Harding currently plays for the Turkish pro team Beşiktaş JK. At Cy-Fair, Harding was a four-year starter and a second team Parade All-American…also known as a Really Big Deal. Harding then played for Duke University, where she was only the sixth player in ACC history to tally 1,000 points, 500 assists, 500 rebounds and 250 steals. In 2007 Harding was selected by the Phoenix Mercury as the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft; according to a 2015 article in the Houston Chronicle, Harding has aspirations to return to her hometown one day to coach the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

3. Tara Lipinski, Figure Skating: Before she was one-half of the best-dressed and most-discussed commentating duo in existence, Lipinski was just a young figure skater with big dreams growing up in Sugarland, Texas. The 1998 Nagano Olympic ladies’ singles champion spent her earliest years in Sewell, N.J., before her father’s job took the Lipinskis to the Lone Star State in 1991. But after realizing the small Houston suburb lacked big opportunities for the budding champion, Lipinski and her mother packed up once again and headed for Detroit in 1993 where she remained until her iconic gold-medal-win in ’98. Now she kills the fashion and journalism game, commentating on figure skating with partner-in-crime Johnny Weir.

4. Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, Basketball: The second and third Cy-Fair High School hoop standouts on our list, Chiney and Nneka make up one-half of the squad that Bleacher Report has called “The Real First Family of Sports,” because of their place as the only family in America to boast four Division I basketball players. First up, older sister Nneka, who was a 2008 WBCA High School All-American before she chose Stanford for college. After a standout career with the Cardinal during which she broke the all-time rebound record, Nneka was selected as the first pick in the 2012 WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks, the same team with whom she won her first league title in 2016. Little sis Chiney, also a WBCA All-American at Cy-Fair, continued to follow in big sis’ shoes at Stanford, where she ended her career in 2014 as the all-time career scoring leader (male or female) Pac-12  history. Injuries have limited Chiney’s WNBA success — she too was a first pick — but she’s parlayed her ball IQ into a broadcasting career with SportsCenter Africa.

5. Mary Lou Retton, Gymnastics: Houston is a perfect 10 for Retton, the first American all-around Olympic champion. Although technically not a Houstonian by birth, Retton, who in the late 1970s was a budding gymnast in small-town West Virginia, sought gold in Texas after being inspired by Romania’s Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Montreal Games. It was in Houston that she teamed up with gymnastics coaching legends Bela and Martha Karolyi, ultimately winning five medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Retton and her family still reside in Houston, so we can safely say she’s earned her true Texan staus.

 

Los Angeles

1. Allyson Felix, Track & Field: Felix, the nine-time Olympic-medal winning sprinter, is a born and bred Californian. She first competed in the sport that would bring her six Olympic golds at her Los Angeles Baptist High School, where she was nicknamed “Chicken Legs” by her teammates. In 2003, Felix forwent her college eligibility and signed a professional contract with Adidas, but she couldn’t quite give up on her California love. With Adidas picking up the tuition tab, Felix attended college at USC, graduating with a degree in elementary education. She still lives and trains in L.A. with her sights set on a fifth Olympic bid in 2020. Does asking her to stay on until 2028 so she can compete at the L.A. Olympics seem selfish? What about unrealistic?

2. Christen Press, Soccer: Maybe you’re familiar with a little team nicknamed “The Gals” who slayed the World Cup in 2015? On that team was the L.A. native Press, a forward who also lists on her resume high school All-America honors and is the all-time leading scorer for the Stanford Cardinal women’s soccer team. Press has played in the U.S. pro leagues since 2011 and with the USWNT since 2012, playing in four of the team’s seven 2015 World Cup games. There’s a lot more we could list about Press but most importantly, know this: she’s fast, she’s aggressive and she likes to score… a lot. Maybe one day she’ll get the chance to showcase all that with a hometown NWSL team? Here’s hoping.

3. Venus and Serena Williams, Tennis: The tale of the Williams sisters’ rise from the public courts of Compton to the top of the tennis history book is almost as well known as the sisters themselves. It was there in East Compton Park that two legends were shaped under the tutelage of their father, Richard, and mother, Oracene, both of whom had no previous experience in tennis or in coaching. While there’s truly no need to detail the sisters’ pages-long list of accomplishments, we should share that at the end of 2016, the sisters returned to Compton to open the Yetunde Price Resource Center, a refuge in gang-ridden Compton named after their sister who died in a drive-by shooting in 2003.

4. Dara Torres, Swimming: In the words of the band Weezer…”Beverly Hills, that’s where I want to be!” So said swimmer Dara Torres, born in the Hills to a Cuban real estate developer and a former model. Torres — who would retire from the pool with four Olympic golds, four silver and four bronze — learned to swim at seven at her local YMCA. She attended the Westlake School for Girls, taking a break from high school during her junior year to train for the 1984 Games. It paid off, and she won her first gold in front of a hometown crowd. She went on to compete at four more Olympics (1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008) with a career spanning 24 years. Age ain’t nothing but a number.

5. Florence Griffith Joyner, Track & Field: The mythical and majestic Flo-Jo (those kits! those nails! that hair!) was born one of seven kids in the Jordan Downs projects of Watts in South Central L.A. She discovered her athletic talent in elementary school, running in track meets sponsored by the Sugar Ray Robinson Organization, and was a standout sprinter at LA’s Jordan High School. At Cal State-Northridge, Griffith Joyner teamed up with Bobby Kersee, husband of track legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and won a national championship her freshman year. Ultimately, Flo-Jo dazzled the world at two Olympic Games, winning a silver in 1984 and a silver and three golds in 1988. She married Al Joyner (yep, another JJK tie) in 1987; she died in her Los Angeles home in 1998 from an undiagnosed heart ailment.

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