5 Mins Read
The rise of the professional vegan athlete is impossible to ignore, but step away from high profile celebrity sports people such as Lewis Hamilton and the William’s sisters for a minute. There’s a world of plant-based female-identifying Olympic competitors to be inspired by, across a broad spectrum of disciplines.
From running to surfing and everything in between, these medal-chasing titans of sport are inspiring next generation Olympians, all without any animal products in sight.
1. Morgan Mitchell
Specialising in the 400m initially, Mitchell switched to 800m and found her times improved significantly. She has a female coach and first entered the Olympics two years after switching to a vegan diet at age 19. Her switch to plant-based living 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 gold medalist Taurasi is the WNBA Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). With an unbeaten scoring record, agility on the court and countless competition wins, she is an impressive athlete. Reductively, she has been referred to as the “female Michael Jordan” in the past. The secret to her success, according to Taurasi, is her vegan diet. She claims it has made her more accountable for what she puts in her body, which as a younger athlete she took for granted. Improved health and a longer-than-average professional sports career has followed.
3. Amelia Brodka
Skateboarding entered the Olympics during the Tokyo 2020 games. Brodka was there, representing her home nation of Poland, though she now lives in California. A professional rider since 2007, she has long stood for female athlete advocacy and, surprising to some, has been vegan since 2010. Brodka embraced plant-based living in a bid to maximise how many years she could skateboard professionally, but also to give her better flexibility. She has talked about maintaining her diet easily with store-bought protein sources, highlighting that specialist nutrition is not essential, even when training.
4. Alex Morgan
Morgan turned vegan in 2017. Since then, she has won a World Cup (as co-captain), gone to the Olympics and been awarded the significantly less prestigious title of ‘Most Beautiful Vegan’ by PETA. Aesthetics aside, she is recognised as an American sporting icon and has inspired a new generation of young women to play soccer. Her vegan journey started after deciding that loving some animals (Morgan is a committed dog rescuer) and eating others was paradoxical at best.
5. Vivian Kong (Man Wai)
From: Hong Kong SAR
Two-time Olympian Kong is a left-handed épée fencer with an Asian Fencing Championship title under her belt. She represented the first woman from Hong Kong to do so. Embracing a vegan diet came after a career-threatening knee injury in 2017. Wanting to recover as quickly as possible, she began researching plant-based nutrition and quickly eliminated all animal products from her diet. The competitor has faced prejudice at home, with her family citing a lack of meat in her diet as the reason she won a bronze, not gold medal at a competition in Cuba. Regardless, the vegan athlete continued on her journey and took the top place, at the same competition, just one year later.
6. Hannah Teter
Teter has won the full spectrum of medal colours during her Olympic career. She reduced her meat and dairy intake six years ago as part of a weight loss plan, before converting to full veganism. Her love of animals and intrinsic connection to the environment, as a winter athlete, made the switch natural. Teter has since said that turning vegan has contributed to her professional success. She is one of a number of female U.S. winter sports professionals that have embraced veganism for performance.
7. Victoria Stambaugh
From: Puerto Rico
Stambaugh recalls watching Jackie Chan films as a child and wanting to be just like him. Though not vegan, he has been reported to eat a less meat-heavy diet than many people. Stambaugh took things a step further and became a taekwondo Olympian powered by no meat or dairy products at all. Since turning vegan, she has revealed that her lung function has increased, as have her energy levels for competitions. Faster recovery times and much less inflammation are extra benefits that she enjoys.
8. Dotsie Bausch
Bausch is more than just a vegan athlete, she’s an activist and all-around ambassador for plant-based power. As an Olympic cyclist, she podiumed in 2012, claiming the title of oldest rider in her discipline, ever. She credits her vegan diet with helping to extend her athletic career beyond expected timeframes. Now retired from competitive sport, she channels her veganism into new professional endeavours, including being the executive director of Switch4Good. The nonprofit recently hit the headlines by spoofing Starbucks and claiming the chain was dropping its plant milk surcharge. Bausch was featured in The Game Changers.
9. Rachael Adams
Olympic and World Championship medalist Adams entered volleyball accidentally, when her high school best friend joined volleyball camp. Tagging along, she found a love for the sport, but her journey to veganism was less kismet-like. Adams has previously talked about the way pro athletes are conditioned to believe that they need meat to achieve personal bests. Since fully committing, she has found that her recovery times are greatly reduced and joint inflammation is less impactful.
10. Tia Blanco
From: Puerto Rico / U.S
Blanco was raised in California, next to the water and has won the International Surfing Association Open Women’s World Surfing Championship twice, in 2015 and 2016. Heralded as one of the top 50 women surfers in the world, she was raised in a vegetarian family before turning vegan in 2013. She credits a PETA documentary with helping her to make the switch and personally advocates for the lifestyle via her social media channels. She has made it known that she hopes to compete in the Olympics one day, now that surfing has been added to the roster of events. If she does qualify, she will represent her birthplace, Puerto Rico, as a vegan athlete.
Lead photo by Florian Schmetz at Unsplash.