Women in Sports with Tandaleya Wilder
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Most sports fans will spend a good part of this weekend glued to the TV watching college bowl games. And then it's time to figure out who'll be in the Super Bowl. But it's been a busy year for lots of other athletes, too. For a wrap-up of the year in women's sports, we turn now to Tandaleya Wilder. She hosts the Internet sports show "SheGotGame.com," and joins us from WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Ms. TANDALEYA WILDER (Host, "SheGotGame.com"): Hi, Debbie.
ELLIOTT: Let's start with someone we've already been following a bit this year, golfer Michelle Wie. She made her pro debut in the fall but didn't really live up to expectations. What's she up to now?
Ms. WILDER: Well, she's studying for the SATs. You know, she really wants to get into Stanford. That's the alma mater of her idol, Tiger Woods, so she's taking that very seriously. And the year really started out well for Michelle Wie, but it kind of ended on a bit of a whimper. I mean, there was a lot of hype around her decision to finally turn pro at 16, and she got these huge endorsement deals from Nike and Sony. And the stage was set for this big showdown against the world's number-one women's golfer, Annika Sorenstam, but then it all ended up in disappointment when Michelle was disqualified on a technicality.
And then recently things didn't go all that well at the Casio World Open, which was her first overseas tournament. After two rounds, she failed to make the cut in that one.
ELLIOTT: There's another emerging athlete with an interesting story, the tennis player Sania Mirza. Can you tell us a little about her?
Ms. WILDER: Yeah. You know, she's something else. This 19-year-old Sania Mirza is like the Maria Sharapova of India. She's really taken that nation by storm. And Sania Mirza has become the first Indian woman to crack the top 40 in the women's tennis rankings; right now I think she's ranked 34 in the world. But, unfortunately, her success has also put her in the center of some controversy.
ELLIOTT: And what's the controversy about?
Ms. WILDER: Well, some Muslim leaders have criticized Sania for everything from her on-court outfits to the fact that she actually mouthed the words `premarital sex' during a conference. And a small group of protesters even burned her in effigy. So now she has been forced to tighten her security; there's armed police that trail her whenever she leaves her home in India.
ELLIOTT: So what does she wear? Is it something outrageous?
Ms. WILDER: No, not at all, I mean, nothing that would raise eyebrows even the slightest in Western terms. I mean, she's wearing the traditional tennis skirt, the mid-drift T-shirt, you know. And she says she's a devout Muslim. She believes her clothing is appropriate and required for the game.
ELLIOTT: And now to talk a little bit about the business side of sports, businesswoman Sheila Johnson bought a WNBA team this year, the Washington Mystics. How many teams does she have a piece of now?
Ms. WILDER: Well, believe it or not, three. Sheila Johnson is now a part-owner of the Washington Mystics, the NBA's Washington Wizards and the NHL's Washington Capitals. You know, everybody talks about Oprah's success, but Sheila Johnson--she's really got it going on. She's the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, and now she is the first African-American woman to be an owner-partner in three professional sports franchises. And I got to tell you, the Mystics organization has really taken to her.
ELLIOTT: How is the WNBA doing overall? How old is the league now?
Ms. WILDER: Well, they're going into their 10th season, and the league still hasn't turned a profit, but they're hoping to turn things around in 2006. The league has expanded, and recently the WNBA announced some pretty dramatic rule changes, which they're really convinced will speed up the game and make the women's game even more fun to watch.
ELLIOTT: Like what?
Ms. WILDER: Well, one of the things that they're doing is they're going to shorten the shot clock. So the shot clock is going to be shortened from 30 seconds to 24 seconds. And the league has dropped the 20-minute halves in favor of 10-minute quarters. Now coach Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun says the new rules will force teams to run more and, you know, most fans really like a sort of run-and-gun type of offense.
ELLIOTT: Finally, Tandaleya Wilder, the Winter Olympics are just around the corner. Who should we be keeping an eye out for?
Ms. WILDER: Well, it's going to be fun, and let's just talk about figure skating. It's going to be really great to watch the competition between nine-time US champion Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen, the two-time world silver medalist; also, 16-year-old Kimmie Meisner, who became just the second American woman to land a triple axle in competition. They're all going to be really fun to watch in terms of the Americans this year at the Olympics.
But I've got to mention this guy, Shani Davis. He's the one...
ELLIOTT: A guy?
Ms. WILDER: A guy, a guy. I know, I know. But he's the one you're going to want to watch, as well, because he's shattering all kinds of stereotypes. This guy is from Chicago's South Side. He says his idol growing up wasn't Michael Jordan; it was speed skater Bonnie Blair. In fact, he says when he was growing up, he used to wear a Bonnie Blair T-shirt, and the kids in his South Side Chicago neighborhood chided him, saying, `Well, why are you wearing that white girl on your T-shirt?' Now he's the first African-American speed skate to qualify for the Olympics. So, no, not a female, but Shani Davis, he's got game, as well.
ELLIOTT: Tandaleya Wilder is the news director at WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut, and the host of the Internet radio show "SheGotGame.com."
Thanks, Tandaleya, and happy new year.
Ms. WILDER: And happy new year to you, too, Debbie.
ELLIOTT: Also in the news this weekend, some members of the US women's Olympic skeleton team say they've been sexually harassed by their coach. Skeleton competitors slide head-first down tracks also used for luge and bobsledding. Coach Tim Nardiello denies the accusations, but The Associated Press reports he's been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.