Nancy Hogshead-Makar receives the Play the Game Award 2019

On the last day of Play the Game 2019, the biennial Play the Game Award was awarded to long-time advocate for protection and support of girls and women in sport, Nancy Hogshead-Makar.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar

Nancy Hogshead-Makar received the 2019 Play the Game Award. Photo: Thomas Søndergaard/Play the Game

Over the past three decades, the winner of the 2019 Play the Game Award has been fighting to stop sexual abuse in sport.

Athlete power on the rise was the theme of the Play the Game 2019 conference, and the work of the winner of this year’s Play the Game Award, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, has helped the rise of athlete power through the formation of Champion Women, her own advocacy organisation for women and girls in sports.

Being a tireless advocate for young female athletes and her efforts in trying to change the landscape for women in sport and their right to have their voices heard is, according to Jens Sejer Andersen, International director of Play the Game, one of the main reasons that Hogshead-Makar receives the award:

“Tonight we will honour a woman whose efforts have helped create a climate in the American society in which the messages of the gymnast victims could now be heard, understood and acted upon,” said Andersen at the Play the Game 2019 farewell party.

As a young athlete in 1981, Hogshead-Makar became victim of an extremely violent and life-threating rape when she went out for a run between two Dukes campuses. At this time she had a very promising swimming career, which came to a halt as the assault resulted in Nancy trying to deal with PTSD.

Just as her more than three-decade-long fight for women in sport, she fought her way back into international swimming, winning three gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Her personal persistence was also emphasised by Jens Sejer Andersen:

“What has impressed us is not only your personal commitment and persistence to defend the rights of those who are subject to discrimination, oppression and abuse. We have also noted that you do this with a deep professionalism, historical awareness and a unique sense of political opportunity,” said Andersen before finishing his motivation speech:

“Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the Play the Game Award is our modest contribution to the continued empowerment of yourself and the athletes for whom your work. Congratulations!”

The recipient of the award was decided by the governing board of Play the Game and the Danish Institute for Sports Studies. The award was handed over by last year's winners Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov. Recieving the award Nancy Hogshead-Makar said:

"I especially want to give thanks to the people who won the award before me. [...] I know I stand in really great company, and I am just so thrilled and so delighted, I just can't thank you all enough. Thank you very much."

Play the Game 2019
Play the Game 2019