Last week, espnW announced their IMPACT25, what was deemed as “a who’s who of 25 athletes and influencers who have made the biggest difference for women in sports this year”. On Tuesday morning’s SportsCenter, US Olympian Simone Biles was announced as the Woman of the Year.

Each member of the IMPACT25 list had a personal essay written about their selection by someone who knows or was inspired by them. The essay honoring Katie Ledecky was written by fellow Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps, and it really seems like he’s passing the torch of “US swimming icon” to Ledecky.

Every time she got in the water, it didn’t matter what time of year it was, how rested she was, where she was swimming, who she was swimming against — she was cranking best times, national records. It was incredible. I remember thinking, This girl might be the real deal.

[…]

Right now, she’s untouchable. There are swimmers who might push her, but no one is going to beat her. I remember what that feeling was like; it’s a great place to be. You know that if you put in the work, the reward is going to be there at the end. The challenge becomes longevity — how long can you keep it up?

You can check out the full essay from Phelps, as well as the other 24 essays, over at espnW. Some of the other notable essays were written by Ryan Clark, Billie Jean King, Candace Parker, Rex Ryan, and Prince Harry.

You’re going to see a lot of year-end and year in review pieces over the coming days and weeks, but the espnW list with personal essays is a unique way to spotlight the most influential women in sports over the course of the year.

About Joe Lucia

I'm the managing editor of Awful Announcing and the news editor of The Comeback. I also made The Outside Corner a thing for six seasons.