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The rise of the professional vegan athlete is unmissable, but step away from high-profile celebrity athletes like Lewis Hamilton and the William sisters for a minute. There’s a world of plant-based competitors identifying women to draw inspiration from, across a wide range of activities.
From running to surfing and everything in between, these medal-hunting titans of the sport are inspiring the next generation of Olympians. All with no animal products in sight.
Originally specializing in the 400m, Mitchell switched to the 800m and found her times improving significantly. She has a female coach and competed in the Olympics for the first time at the age of 19, two years after switching to a vegan diet. Her switch to a plant-based lifestyle wasn’t planned, but the results spoke for themselves, with Mitchell citing faster recovery and easier weight management. She appeared in the 2018 documentary The game changers.
2. Diana Taurasi
Four-time Olympic champion Taurasi is the WNBA Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). With an unbeaten scoring record, agility on the court and countless competitive wins, she is a formidable athlete. She has been referred to in the past as “female Michael Jordan” for short. According to Taurasi, the secret of their success is their vegan diet. She claims it made her more responsible for what she puts in her body, which she took for granted as a younger athlete. Improved health and an above-average career in professional sports followed.
3. Amelia Brodka
Skateboarding made its entry into the Olympics during the Tokyo 2020 games. Brodka was there, representing her native Poland, although she now resides in California. She has been a professional driver since 2007, has long stood for the advocacy of female athletes and has been vegan since 2010. Brodka has chosen a plant-based lifestyle to maximize how many years she can skateboard professionally, but also to give her better flexibility. She’s talked about simply maintaining her diet with store-bought protein sources, stressing that special nutrition isn’t essential, even during exercise.
4. Alex Morgan
Morgan became a vegan in 2017. Since then, she’s won a world championship (as co-captain), has been to the Olympics, and has been awarded the much less prestigious title of Most Beautiful Vegan by PETA. Aesthetics aside, she is considered an American sports icon and has inspired a new generation of young women to play soccer. Her vegan journey began after she decided that loving some animals (Morgan is a dedicated dog rescuer) and eating others was paradoxical at best.
5. Vivian Kong (Man Wai)
From Hong Kong
Two-time Olympian Kong is a left-handed epee fencer with an Asian fencing champion title under her belt. She was the first Hong Kong woman to do so. After a career-threatening knee injury in 2017, she became vegan. In order to recover as quickly as possible, she began researching plant-based diets and quickly eliminated all animal products from her diet. The competitor faces prejudice at home, with her family citing a lack of meat in her diet as the reason she won a bronze rather than a gold medal at a competition in Cuba. Regardless, the vegan athlete continued on her way, taking first place in the same competition just a year later.
6. Hannah Teter
Teter has won the full spectrum of medal colors throughout her Olympic career. Six years ago, she reduced her meat and dairy intake as part of a weight loss plan before turning full vegan. Her love for animals and her inner connection with the environment as a winter sports enthusiast made the change natural. Teter has since said that going vegan has contributed to her professional success. She is one of several female winter sports professionals in the United States who have embraced veganism for performance reasons.
From: Puerto Rico
Stambaugh recalls watching Jackie Chan films as a kid and wanting to be just like him. While he’s not vegan, he’s reportedly eating a less meat-heavy diet than many people. Stambaugh went one step further and became an Olympic taekwondo champion who does not eat meat or dairy. Since going vegan, she has shown that her lung function has increased, as has her energy to compete. Faster recovery times and much less inflammation are additional benefits she enjoys.
8. Dotsie Bausch
Bausch is more than just a vegan athlete, she is an activist and ambassador for plant-based power. As an Olympic cyclist, she stood on the podium in 2012 and claimed the title of oldest-ever rider in her discipline. She credits her vegan diet with helping prolong her athletic career beyond expected timeframes. Now that she has retired from competitive sports, she is bringing her veganism to new professional endeavors, including as CEO of Switch4Good. The nonprofit recently made headlines by spoofing Starbucks, claiming the chain was dropping its plant-based milk supplement. Bausch was featured in The game changers.
9. Rachel Adams
Olympic and world championship medalist Adams accidentally entered volleyball when her high school best friend came to volleyball camp. Going along she discovered a love for the sport, but her journey to veganism was less kismet-esque. Adams has previously spoken about how professional athletes are conditioned to believe they need meat to achieve personal bests. Since becoming fully committed, she has found that her recovery times are greatly reduced and joint inflammation is less of an impact.
From: Puerto Rico / United States
Raised by the water in California, Blanco twice won the International Surfing Association’s Open Women’s World Surfing Championship in 2015 and 2016. Heralded as one of the top 50 female surfers in the world, she grew up in a vegetarian family before becoming a vegan in 2013. She credits a PETA documentary with helping her make the transition and is personally championing the lifestyle through her social media channels. She has revealed that she hopes to one day compete in the Olympics after surfing was added to the list of events. If she qualifies, she will represent her birthplace, Puerto Rico, as a vegan athlete.
Mission statement by Florian Schmetz at Unsplash.