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Peng Shuai, Candace Parker Among Athletes on 2022 Time 100 Most Influential List

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 23, 2022

Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker brings the ball up court against the Los Angels Sparks during the second half of the WNBA basketball game, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

Tennis star Peng Shuai and Chicago Sky star Candace Parker were among the athletes who made the cut for Time's list of the 100 most influential people in 2022.

The list also included 2022 Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen, Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal and United States women's national team stars Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan.

Peng's health and safety became a concern for tennis fans and the sport's officials after she alleged last November she had been sexually assaulted by Zhang Gaoli, a retired vice premier in the Chinese government.

Chinese state media network CGTN shared a statement purportedly from Peng in which she said the original post "was released without my consent" and that the allegation "is not true."

However, comments directly from the athlete were scarce, leading many to wonder about her status.

The WTA announced in December it was suspending its events in China and Hong Kong. WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said he had "serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation."

Speaking with French newspaper L'Equipe in February (via the Associated Press' John Leicester), Peng was quoted as saying, "I never said that anyone made me submit to a sexual assault." She said her initial post "resulted in an enormous misunderstanding from the outside world."

Writing about Peng for Time, Lu Pin said the tennis star "set off a chain reaction of events that profoundly changed global sports."

"Her account has catapulted an unprecedented defense of women’s rights against authoritarian power," Lu said. "Her subsequent denial of her original claims suggests that she has not yet regained full autonomyβ€”and may in fact be experiencing unspeakable cruelty."

Parker is coming off the second WNBA title win of her career. Her leadership and experience were the missing ingredients for a Chicago Sky squad that showed promise but hadn't tasted much playoff success.

WNBA @WNBA

πŸ˜‚πŸ—£ <a href="https://twitter.com/Candace_Parker?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Candace_Parker</a> <br><br>If you take away ANYTHING from CP's Mic'd up it should be: "You're human, so LET'S GOOO" πŸ‘ <a href="https://t.co/LCsIH0dsY5">pic.twitter.com/LCsIH0dsY5</a>

The six-time All-Star also averaged 13.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists during Chicago's postseason run, and she had a double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds) in the Sky's Finals-clinching victory over the Phoenix Mercury.

The AP named Parker its Female Athlete of the Year for 2021.