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Maine's women Olympians set to inspire next generation

On National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Olympians with Maine connections discussed being ready for Beijing and ready to grow their sports around the world.

MAINE, N.Y. — Around Maine and the U.S., events are being held to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day. 

Five former Bates College student-athletes will participate in a virtual event Wednesday night to speak about their own athletic and life experiences.

Vantiel Elizabeth Duncan is a 2010 Bates graduate and one of the panelists for the Lead Her Forward event.

After being named a six-time All-American thrower in college, Duncan spent years in the public and private sectors. She said the skills she learned on the track and field and around sports teams contributed to her success in her professional career.

Speaking during the event, Duncan said she would stress the importance of sports in girls' lives and how it's important for younger athletes to hear from people like her who have had success in the sports and professional worlds. 

Meanwhile, other athletes who currently call Maine home are ready to inspire the next generation of Olympians.

Rahel Enzler and Amalie Anderson are on the University of Maine's women's hockey team and make their Olympic debuts this week. Enzler, skating for Switzerland, will first take the ice Thursday against Canada.

Anderson and former Black Bear Michelle Weis will represent their home country of Denmark and will be part of the first women's Olympic hockey team in the country's history. 

Denmark will take on host country China in its first game in Beijing.

The Czech Republic will also have former UMaine players on the roster. Tereza Vanisova and Vendula Pribylova will be part of their home country's first-ever women's Olympic hockey team. 

Despite Anderson and Enzler being college students, they understand when they put on jerseys from their home countries that they'll inspire the next generation of women hockey players around the globe.

"I just want to show little girls, or prove to them, that we can play hockey as well," Enzler said. "We can do all the [same] stuff as the men can do."

"When I think about it, it's super hard to picture myself as a role model because growing up, I looked up to a lot of people. And I think it's weird to think other people [are] looking up to me," Andersen added.

Mainers have had a lot of women trailblazers to look up to in the past four decades. Clare Egan, who is set to make her second Olympic appearance as a biathlete, grew up almost literally in the shadow of Maine's golden runner.

"We only have one statue of a person in Cape Elizabeth, and it's a woman, and it's Joan Benoit Samuelson," Egan said. "That definitely had an impact on me as it did with everyone in our community."

Egan said learning about Samuelson's success as the first Olympic gold medal winner of the women's marathon made her fall in love with the Olympics and running. Before switching to the biathlon world, Egan was a competitive runner. 

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