WNBA honors U.S. female Olympians

NEW YORK -- The United States' female Olympians have been honored by WNBA with its Inspiration Award.

The women, who won 58 of the Americans' 104 medals at the London Games, were celebrated at the league's Inspiring Women Luncheon on Monday as WNBA president Laurel Richie praised them for their accomplishments.

"You have captured the nation through your passion, dedication and hard work, and I suspect quite the bit of sacrifice," Richie said. "You are an inspiration to the next generation of young girls who we know were glued to their TV sets and their iPads and iPods and all other devices, and they watched you compete. ... You have shown what women can be as athletes and what athletes can be as citizens."

Tennis star Venus Williams -- who earned her fourth Olympic gold, including her third in doubles with her sister Serena -- credited Title IX and players such as Althea Gibson and Billie Jean King with paving the way for her opportunities.

Other Olympians in attendance included volleyball star Danielle Scott-Arruda, who helped the U.S. win its second straight silver in her fifth appearance at the Games; gold medalists Betsey Armstrong (water polo), Kayla Harrison (judo), Taylor Ritzel (rowing); and Claressa Shields, a 17-year-old boxer who won a gold in the first time women competed in the sport.

"We all believe in women's sports, we believe in women athletes," Williams said. "Young women need to know they can achieve, and sports makes life better. It helps women be more successful, more confident. I am so proud to be amongst all these wonderful athletes who are role models."

Teresa Edwards, a five-time Olympic medalist -- including four golds -- and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, received the Pioneer Award for serving as a role model on and off the court.

Also, the U.S. women's basketball team was recognized for winning its fifth straight gold. Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings, the reigning WNBA MVP and member of the last three Olympic teams, represented her U.S. teammates and praised Edwards.

"For me, Teresa -- obviously winning five medals and being a part of those teams -- giving me inspiration," she said. "I'm not getting five. You're the inspiration for each one of us."