Adeline Gray is a three-time world champion wrestler — one who would like everyone to focus on her athletic accomplishments rather than her gender.
The 25-year-old athlete sat down with ESPN for the magazine’s Body Issue, which hits newsstands July 8, to talk about wrestling, her unstoppable work ethic and her upcoming Olympic debut in Rio this summer.
“Women’s wrestling is a great sport that a lot of people don’t know about. I still get that sideways tilt of the head, like a puppy is looking at me: ‘Women wrestle?’” Gray told ESPN. “It’s almost disheartening, because I work very hard and it’s a very competitive field internationally, and people in our country just don’t really know about it.”
Standing at 5’10” and weighing in at 165 pounds, Gray is all muscle in her ESPN Body Issue shoot. The 25-year-old, however, says people expect more of a “Helga type of women,” who’s “obese and going out there on the mat to try to smash people’s heads.”
“It’s so much more than that,” Gray noted. “The weight is really low, so it’s about technique. It’s skill, strength, power and executing that in a very precise way.
You are allowed to be a female and be considered beautiful and still be an athlete and still be badass in that realm. Adeline Gray
Gray also spoke to ESPN about the sexism she’s experienced as a female wrestler. “I absolutely hate the statement, ‘You’re too pretty to wrestle,’” she said. “I think people used to view female athletes as very butch, masculine — you kind of had to disregard your femininity to excel at an elite sport. Now it’s just a different world,” later adding: “You are allowed to be a female and be considered beautiful and still be an athlete and still be badass in that realm.”
Gray said she hopes to be a role model for young girls who want to wrestle.
“I want to impart some dreams to young girls who haven’t had opportunities in the past. Boys really have a leg up on us because they have these professional leagues that they can dream about,” she said. “So if I can be like Serena Williams or like some of these main stars out there who are being iconic and groundbreaking and are role models for this next generation, it would be an honor and a blessing.”
(Head over to ESPN to see more from the Body Issue.)