The Greater Orlando Sports Commission (GO Sports) is proud to announce that the 5th Annual Celebrating Women in Sports luncheon presented by Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute will be hosted at Addition Financial Arena on Wednesday, September 13, 2023 at Noon. In addition to Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute returning as the presenting sponsor, Florida Blue is returning as the sponsor of the fireside chat with featured speaker, Joan Benoit Samuelson.
“We are thrilled to welcome Joan Benoit Samuelson as this year’s keynote speaker, continuing our tradition of offering insight and inspiration from some of the most noted female athletes and executives in U.S. sports history,” said Sharon Line Clary, Vice President of Strategic Marketing & Communications and Chairman of the GO Sports Board of Directors. “With our community hosting the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in downtown Orlando in February of 2024, Joan is the perfect guest for this year’s luncheon.”
The luncheon will also recognize several female leaders in the local sports community with the Women in Sports Leadership Award, Rising Star Award, and WISE Greater Orlando Women of Inspiration award. To view past winners, visit GreaterOrlandoSports.com/Celebrating-Women-In-Sports. The 2023 award recipients will be announced at a later date.
“We’re excited to host this event every year and continue to shine a spotlight on the extraordinary women in our sports community,” said Jason Siegel, President & CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. “Thank you to Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute for their ongoing support as our presenting sponsor and thank you to Florida Blue for returning as our featured speaker sponsor.”
Winner of the first Olympic Women’s Marathon at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Joan Benoit Samuelson is a pioneer of women’s marathoning. Born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Benoit Samuelson took to long-distance running to help recover from a broken leg suffered while slalom skiing. At Bowdoin College she excelled in athletics, and after two years accepted a running scholarship to North Carolina State. In 1978 she helped lead the Wolfpack to the ACC cross-country championship.
In 1979, she entered the Boston Marathon as a relative unknown and won the race. In 1981, she captured the U.S. 10,000-meter championship, and in 1983 she repeated her Boston Marathon success with a world record time of 2:22:43. Benoit Samuelson won the Olympic Marathon Trials at age 26, just 17 days following arthroscopic knee surgery. Three months later, she won the first Olympic Women's Marathon in 2:24:52. She was world ranked five times in the marathon, twice at no. 1, and in 1985 was awarded the prestigious AAU Sullivan Award as the nation’s finest amateur athlete.
At the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team trials, at the age of 50, she finished in 2:49:08, setting a new U.S. 50+ record. When she ran the New York City Marathon in 2009, she broke the Senior Masters record for runners older than 50 with a final time of 2:49:09. In 2019, Benoit Samuelson ran the Boston Marathon again, forty years after her first win, with a time of 3:04:00 — within thirty minutes of her 1979 time. She has been inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, the Maine Women's Hall of Fame, the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, and the USA Track and Field Masters Hall of Fame. Her personal best — 2:21:21, set at the 1985 Chicago Marathon — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.
"Joanie is the undisputed queen of distance running, both in the United States and the world. Her incredible record setting career began in the 1980's and continues to this day as a mater's athlete," said Jon Hughes, Co-Owner of Track Shack/EMMI and member of the GO Sports Board of Directors. "Ahead of Orlando hosting the U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials, we couldn't be more excited to welcome Joanie to our community and hear from her at this event."
Past featured speakers at Celebrating Women in Sports include Jessica Mendoza (2018), ESPN’s first female Major League Baseball analyst and two-time Olympian; Stephanie McMahon (2019), WWE’s Chief Brand Officer; Brandi Chastain (2021), two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, coach and broadcaster; and Jennifer Rizzotti (2022), Hall of Fame basketball player and President of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
Registration and networking will begin at 11:30am and the luncheon will begin promptly at Noon. Table Sponsorships are $2,000. To purchase a table for the event or to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Michael Kalinich at Michael@greaterorlandosports.com. Individual tickets are $100 and may be purchased here.