NEW YORK — Track-and-field legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee wouldn’t mind being the next celeb to launch her own apparel line, but don’t expect any running shorts or track shoes.
“I would love to have my own denim line,” Joyner-Kersee revealed this week at the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 25th annual Salute to Women in Sports award dinner. “I am a fashion junkie.”
Joyner-Kersee was one of more than 100 female athletes who came out for the awards presentation at the Waldorf-Astoria here, which raised over $1 million and drew a crowd in excess of 1,500. The event was especially meaningful because the organization, founded by tennis icon Billie Jean King in 1974, is marking its 30th anniversary, and much of the evening focused on the strides women have made in sports since then. A number of athletes from the recent Olympic Games in Athens were on hand, including members of the softball and soccer teams, swimmer Natalie Coughlin and beach volleyball players Misty May and Kerri Walsh.
Athletes shared ideas about the state of women’s activewear. Walsh, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall in her stocking feet, said she would like companies to make sportswear longer for taller women, while Olympic gold medalist basketball player Swin Cash said she supports sports companies pairing up with nonathletes to launch lines such as the deals Adidas has with Missy Elliott and Stella McCartney.
“As long as it’s good product, I don’t mind,” Cash said. “Having celebrities come in helps bring more attention to these companies and women’s athletic apparel.
“I think overall we are heading in the right direction with women’s sports apparel,” added Cash, who was clad in a fitted gray and black Roberto Cavalli dress. “There are more companies catering to female athletes. But I would like to see less emphasis on being sexy and more emphasis on being feminine. There is so much confusion about sexiness for athletes. Look at all the attention the volleyball players got at the Olympics this year.”
Joyner-Kersee said she would like to see better sports bras. “I can never find ones that fit right. And I work with a lot of young girls, and many of them have body issues and need sports bras that work for them.”
Some of the older athletes sounded off on what is happening in athleticwear these days. Brazilian tennis legend Maria Bueno, an eight-time Wimbledon tennis champion and one of this year’s three inductees into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, said she was not a fan of the outfits worn by some players this year at the U.S. Open.
“The fashions were a little too racy for my taste,” she said. ‘They don’t even look like tennis players.”
Among the athletes honored this year were jockey Julie Krone, who took the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award; Kristi Yamaguchi, who was awarded the Flo Hyman Memorial Award, and Robin Roberts, who received the Billie Jean King Contribution Award. In addition to Bueno, Nancy Hogshead-Makar and Beverly Kearney were also named to the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. Golfer Annika Sorenstam was named the Sportswoman of the Year, individual, while Misty May and Kerri Walsh won the Sportswoman of the Year, team. There was also some star wattage at the event. Among the presenters were NBC “Today” show host Katie Couric, gossip columnist Liz Smith, former Texas Governor Ann Richards and actress Marlee Matlin.
“All you athletes put Hollywood to shame,” the actress signed as her deaf interpreter spoke to the crowd. “I have never been in a room that had such a great collection of legs and arms. I am going to the gym starting tomorrow.”