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Peng Shuai, Rafael Nadal Highlight Athletes on 2022 Time 100 List

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 5/24/2022 Zach Koons
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The two tennis players were joined by members of the USWNT, stars from the Beijing Olympics and a WNBA icon.

Editor’s note: This story contains accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at

Time magazine released its annual list of this year’s 100 Most Influential People on Monday and a number of athletes earned a spot in the coveted issue.

Among those named to the latest edition of Time100 are tennis players Peng Shuai and Rafael Nadal, 2022 Olympic stars Nathan Chen and Eileen Gu, U.S. women’s national soccer players Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan and WNBA icon Candace Parker.

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai was included in the magazine’s “Icons” section after she accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex. She subsequently disappeared from the public eye, resulting in widespread calls for her safety and a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Peng re-emerged at the same Olympics but her name remains censored on the Chinese internet in the current day.

“Peng undoubtedly was aware from the start of the dangers inherent in speaking out,” activist and writer Lü Pin wrote in Time. “In the now deleted post, she described her actions as a moth to a flame, an egg to a stone, and a self-­destruction. Her account has catapulted an unprecedented defense of women’s rights against authoritarian power. Her subsequent denial of her original claims suggests that she has not yet regained full autonomy—and may in fact be experiencing unspeakable cruelty.”

Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal made history in 2022 when he won his 21st Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open. In an era filled with dominant men’s tennis players, the 35-year-old stands alone with the most Grand Slam victories in history by a male player.

“I admire athletes who push themselves to the limit, and I’m absolutely inspired every time Rafa takes the court,” seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady wrote of Nadal in the magazine. “There’s something to be learned from watching his determination, his strategy, everything that it takes for him to never take any moment for granted. He’s forever going to be remembered as one of the very best athletes in all of sports.”

Rapinoe, Sauerbrunn and Morgan have made plenty of contributions on the field for the USWNT, but in 2022 their most significant accomplishment came in the fight for equality. The three national team leaders, alongside countless players and advocates in American women’s soccer, secured a $24 million settlement with U.S. Soccer, as well as a new collective bargaining agreement that guarantees equal pay and prize money.

“More than 50 years after the Original Nine of women’s pro tennis signed symbolic $1 contracts and changed sports history forever, the battle for pay equity in sports continues—and the baton has been passed…” former tennis star and gender equality advocate Billie Jean King wrote in Time. “These women have shown up and spoken up. When they were not recognized for their accomplishments, and not paid equally to the men’s team, they vowed to drag soccer to the right side of history.”

Chen, who became an Olympic champion this past winter in Beijing, was profiled by fellow Chinese-American skating star Michelle Kwan. Gu, a Chinese freestyle skier who won three medals at the 2022 Olympics, was profiled by Olympic skier and 2014 silver medalist Gus Kenworthy. Parker, a two-time WNBA MVP and women’s activist, was profiled by three-time NBA champion Dwayne Wade.

The print issue of Time’s “100 Most Influential People of 2022” hits newsstands Friday.


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