Hansen: Olympic star Walsh proving an excellent ambassador for women's sports

2012-10-03T22:00:00Z Hansen: Olympic star Walsh proving an excellent ambassador for women's sportsBy Greg Hansen, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 03, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

In the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh walks past a guest in swim gear, who stops and does a not-so-subtle double-take.

He turns to me, a stranger, asking “isn’t that Misty May or someone?”

I say it is someone else. “Kerri Walsh.”

“Same thing,” he says.

Wednesday was a good day for celebrity sightings at the Ritz. For 15 minutes I stand in the lobby watching people react to the Who’sWho of American women’s sports.

Ali Raisman, captain of the USA gold medal-winning gymnastics team, is almost unfamiliar wearing a dress rather than a leotard. Her black hair is long, hanging to her shoulders. America has rarely seen the 18-year-old Raisman looking so, well, so grown up.

“I know that people are watching,” she says later. “I’m on the (40-city) Tour of Champions right now and hundreds of cute little girls wearing the same leotards we wore in London are everywhere we go. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how many people know us.”

For three days, ESPN played host to many of the cleanup hitters of America’s women’s sports at the third Women’s Sports Summit at the Ritz. Hannah Storm and Cheryl Swoopes and Gabrielle Reece and Julie Foudy and executives and marketing specialists from the NCAA, NBA, NFL, Fox Sports, Under Armour, adidas, the USOC, USGA, MSG and every sports entity with a famous initial arrived at Dove Mountain

The purpose was simple: Growing opportunities in women’s sports. Can women’s sports capture a bigger share of America’s advertising marketplace, and how can the star-power of these elite athletes be elevated?

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