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There are many things that bring Pittsburghers together – French fries on sandwiches and salads, a cold Iron City, Pop Art and, of course, sports!
While we often reminisce on the Steel Curtain and our favorite hockey nights in Pittsburgh, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the success of women in sports, too. In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating four of the Black women in sports from Pittsburgh who have made history, set records and continue to contribute to the world of athletics. We know there are many more, and we, of course, celebrate their accomplishments as well.
Ashley Battle began her basketball career at a very young age in the Manchester neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Battle went on to win three national championships at the University of Connecticut before embarking on an exciting career in the WNBA in 2005. She played for the Seattle Storm, New York Liberty and San Antonio Silver Stars before retiring from the WNBA at the end of the 2010 season. Battle is now a member of the “Women In Nike” program, a partnership between the WNBA and Nike which provides dynamic work experiences for retired or retiring WNBA players, and serves as an associate product line manager for Nike’s “Jordan Brand.”
Pittsburgh-area native Bianca Smith recently made history by becoming the first Black woman to coach in professional baseball with the Boston Red Sox. Smith was born in Sewickley and attended college at Dartmouth where she played softball before moving on to the director of baseball role at Case Western University, a position she held while studying law. Smith currently coaches at Carroll University in Wisconsin and will be joining the Boston Red Sox for Spring Training.
Born in Pittsburgh, Lauryn Williams is the first American woman to earn medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Before becoming a record-breaking Olympian, Williams qualified for the National Junior Olympics while in high school in Rochester, Pennsylvania, before competing for the University of Miami track team. Williams went on to win Silver Medals in the 2004 Summer Olympics in the 100-meter dash and the 2014 Winter Olympics in the two-woman bobsled. Williams opened her own financial planning business in 2016, focusing on young athletes and professionals.
McKeesport-native Swintayla “Swin” Cash Canal played 14 seasons of professional basketball in the WNBA. Cash Canal, a teammate of Battle’s at UConn, is a two-time NCAA Women’s Division I Champion, a three-time WNBA Champion and a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist for Team USA. Currently, she serves as vice president of basketball operations and team development for the New Orleans Pelicans. Cash Canal was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020.