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New Orleans Police Homicide Detective featured in Susan Fleet's New Orleans crime thriller series




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GIRL POWER! -August 25, 2014

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August 25, 2014 11:14      

permalink   GIRL POWER! 

My last post was a bit of a downer, so this time I'll give you something to cheer about. Two super talented girls.

Mo'en Davis                      Olivia Prokopova

How about that Mo'en Davis! This girl is an inspiration to us all, a 13-year-old with a blazing fastball. During the recent Little League World Series, she tossed a 2-hitter to lead the Philadelphia Taney Dragons to a 4-0 victory.

She pitched the complete game, the first female pitcher to throw a shutout in Little League World Series history. Using her 70 mph fastball, the five-foot-four dynamo struck out 8 batters and allowed only two hits.

Accolades from other sports women

Fitness blogger Stephanie Tuck was thrilled. For two years, while growing up in Newton, MA, Stephanie was the only girl on her Little League team. "[Mo'en] will not only inspire other girls to play, but she is helping to remove the 'specialness' of girls playing at that level. Over time people won't be amazed that a girl is so good. They will simply be amazed that a particular [player] is so good. Gender won't matter.”

But it mattered at the 1999 LL World Series. Alicia Humbolt started at second base for a team from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Humbolt says, "One opposing coach refused to let his team play against me." Humbolt went on to play softball at Auburn.

Donna Orender, a former president of the WNBA, believes Mo'en [right] will help dispel  the "biases we're taught as kids about the boys' roles and the girls' roles.” She tells girls to pursue their dreams no matter what. "Do what you think you want to do, and do your best.” To that end, Orender created Generation W, a website that focuses on inspiring women and girls.

Throw like a girl?

These days that phrase takes on a whole new meaning. One woman said her 10-year-old nephew started to make a crack about "someone throws like a girl” but stopped. Not because he knew she would disapprove. He had seen Mo'en pitch in the LL World Series on television. "He thought about Mo'en," the woman said, "and actually said her name.”

I wish this story ended with Mo'en and her team winning the Little League World Series. But the Taney Dragons lost their second game. Mo'en was the starting pitcher, but did not finish. However, the game was the highest rated Little League World Series game in network history, largely due to the interest in Mo'en Davis.

What's Next?

Mo'en is the first Little League player ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but she's modest about her success. "I never thought I would be a role model at this age, so I just have to be myself.”

When asked about her future plans, she is realistic. It's unlikely she will make it to the major leagues, and there are no professional women's baseball teams. But she does have a dream. Her first goal is to play point guard for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team. Then she wants to play in the WNBA.

With her talent and determination, I wouldn't bet against it.

A Dynamite Golfer

Imagine winning the triple crown of golf: the US Open, the Masters and the world championship.

That's what Olivia Prokopova did this year in the hyper-competitive arena of professional miniature golf.

Most of her competitors are middle-aged men, but that doesn't bother her.

"At a tournament, it feels like we are one big family,” Olivia says. "We see each other regularly, at least twice a year, and we know each other. [They] are very supportive."  

Asked if they mind being beaten by a girl, Olivia says, "I have once beaten the same player in sudden-death playoff three times in a row. He was a little upset and walked away briskly, but even then, he later came back and offered his congratulations.”

Professional Mini-Golf

Most people don't know there are professional mini-golf players, but Olivia is changing that. The 19-year old is a celebrity in her native Czech Republic. The subject of a book and a documentary, she has corporate sponsors, her own website and her own line of jackets.

People all over the world play miniature golf for fun, but professional courses are different, and far more difficult. They feature a series of AstroTurf putting greens, with variations in elevation and pitch.

Skill is more important than luck. Players must sink their shots in one or two strokes per hole. This is where Olivia excels. At the 2013 World Crazy Golf Championship in Hastings, UK, Olivia won by a margin of 21 strokes. "There's no fear in her,” says Rick Alessi, 57, who will compete against her in the 2014 US Open Miniature Golf Tournament. "She just loves the game.”

A Prodigy

Olivia began playing minigolf at the age of three. "My dad worked as a sports reporter and he took me with him to an interview he did with a mini-golf trainer. I tried to play and really liked it. I kept asking when we could go back to play more.”

She was seven when she played her first US tournament. "It was amazing,” she said. "All the other players would stand around me and cheer, some of them screaming and jumping in the air.”

She travels with her parents, her brother, and Ales Vik, an employee of her father's miniature golf course-building company in the Czech Republic. Olivia speaks only basic English. Her father, Jan Prokop, speaks no English at all, so an interpreter translates for her at press interviews.

But sometimes it gets lonely. "Because I play all the time, I don't have many friends, but I like the players here. They are like my second family.”

Mini-golf prizes 

Prizes in miniature golf are nothing like those in the "big” golf world. Adam Scott took home $1.4 million for winning the Masters. The Minigolf Masters has a total prize fund of $12,000. Although the entry fees are not high, Olivia and her family have large travel expenses. To pay for them, Olivia relies on fees from exhibitions and on corporate sponsors.

For Olivia, mini-golf is a full-time job. She has already had operations on one wrist and both knees. Six days a week she practices 8 to 12 hours a day. On Wednesdays she does schoolwork from 3 to 8PM.

Despite her celebrity, she is modest. "I haven't got any talent. I just practice every day.”

Asked if she has a dream, Olivia said, "We have challenged Tiger Woods on several occasions, mainly through the media, but he never responded. Maybe he is afraid?” she joked.

So there you have it, folks. Two amazing young women. And they have something in common. Not just talent and brains. Mo'en and Olivia worked hard to achieve their goals, hours of practice. Through it all, they had the support and encouragement from their families and coaches.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you think of them. 

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