Mary Davis, Ireland
CEO of the Special Olympics International
A life-long leader within the Special Olympic movement, Davis manages an international team of 250 people who are improving inactivity, injustice and social isolation by encouraging people to be productive citizens in their communities. With over six million Special Olympics athletes worldwide, Davis is the driving force behind making young disabled athletes dreams possible with the hugely successful Special Olympics World Summer Games that takes place every two years. In fact, when Davis took over in 2003, the Special Olympics had never taken place outside of America. Now, under her tutelage, the competition has been staged around the world with participation levels at an all-time high. The Special Olympics is indeed a special place for people and the Irish-born CEO has helped to continue inspiring the way the world views and understands the critical need for greater inclusion.
– Davis was key to signing WWE legend the Big Show as a global ambassador in August. As part of his role, the American creates an inclusive world through sport and fuels the spirit of the Special Olympic movement.
– She ran the New York Marathon in recent years, raising €80,000 for Special Olympics in the process.
– She has a keen interest in antiques and collects them while travelling around the globe.
Did you know…
Davis was a candidate in the 2011 Irish presidential election. Despite receiving support from six county councils, she came last in the voting system, securing just 2.7 per cent of the overall votes.
“We use sports and various activities to build confidence (of participants) and use our competition opportunities to show to the world the importance of sports in the life of the people with intellectual disabilities.” – Mary Davis (Source: The Economic Times)
Moya Dodd, Australia
Executive committee member of the Asian Football Confederation
Simply playing football has never been enough for Dodd. A 24-cap international career with Australia, of which the first steps were taken when incessantly kicking the ball against the garage of her parents’ Adelaide home, has been parlayed into a prominent spell as a bureaucrat. As chair of the Asian Football Confederation women’s committee, she teamed up with Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussein – a previous candidate for the FIFA presidency – to overturn the ban on the wearing of the hijab by female Muslim players. Dodd would also rise to one of the top spots at FIFA in 2013, being one of three women to serve on its Executive Committee. The 53-year-old’s controversial failure to be re-elected in 2017, missing out to Bangladesh’s Mahfuza Akhter Kiron who struggled to name the Women’s World Cup holders, has not tempered her involvement. Dodd now chairs Common Goal, a charity co-founded by Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata that encourages professional players and coaches to donate one per cent of their salaries to a collective fund.
– She featured in FIFA’s first-ever global tournament for women in 1988, coming on as a substitute when Australia beat Brazil.
– Dodd qualified as a lawyer during her playing days and is now a partner at Gilbert + Tobin, a Sydney-based firm that is renowned for its pro bono services.
– Age is no barrier for Dodd’s love of the game. She still plays in an over-35s competition in Australia.
Did you know…
Dodd told Forbes that she grew up as a huge Liverpool fan, staying up late into the night as a teenager to watch their matches on television in Australia and taking inspiration from Kevin Keegan.
“I grew up in Adelaide, Australia. My parents didn’t play, my grandparents didn’t play, and nobody in my family had any clue about football. Yet somehow it became the centre of my life. I played on the Australian national team. I was one of the first few women on the FIFA executive committee. I’ve had some strange and priceless adventures, both on and off the field.” – Moya Dodd (Source: The Players’ Tribune)
Instagram: Moya Dodd
Sarah Thomas, USA
Sarah Thomas didn’t set out to become a pioneer – in fact, her path to the NFL was born out of mild curiosity. One day, in her early 20s, she decided to tag along with her brother to an officiating seminar and quickly established herself as a youth league and high school referee. Though she had always been involved in sport – having earned a basketball scholarship at the University of Mobile in Alabama – there was no burning desire to reach the upper echelons of American football until catching the eye of a former NFL official, Gerald Austin, in 2006. From there she was worked into the college football rotation and it was in 2015 that the NFL appointed Thomas as the first permanent female official in league history. It had only taken them 95 years.
– Thomas broke new ground last season when she became the first woman to be assigned as an on-field official for a playoff game, in the New England Patriots’ victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
– The 46-year-old still holds down a day job as a pharmaceutical sales representative, as most officiating positions in the NFL are not full-time posts.
– It is not just in the NFL that Thomas has made her presence felt. Her college milestones include officiating a Bowl game between Marshall and Ohio in 2009, and her first Big Ten game, Northwestern hosting Rice, two years later.
Did you know…
Thomas broke her wrist while officiating a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings as a line judge in 2016. She was driven into the ground after a receiver made accidental contact on the sidelines, but she returned after a brief evaluation under concussion protocol to finish the game.
“When you’re out there officiating, the guys don’t think of me as a female. I mean, they want me to be just like them — just be an official — and that’s what I’ve always set out to do.” – Sarah Thomas