International Women’s Month is upon us, so there is no better time to celebrate one of Canada’s most incredible women’s ballers. Natalie Achonwa is a three-time Olympian, WNBA player, and was the first international player to ever join the Notre Dame women’s basketball team. She is a fervent advocate for women in sports and a great role model for young athletes in Canada and abroad.
Achonwa was born in Toronto, later moving to Guelph, and then to Hamilton to play high school basketball. At Notre Dame, she led the Fighting Irish to four consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances and ended her college career ranked #12 on the Notre Dame all time scoring list.
When she was sixteen years old, Natalie became the youngest player to ever suit up for the Canadian Women’s Senior National Team.
Since then, Natalie has been a constant presence on the Canadian Women’s Basketball team, currently ranked #4 in the World by FIBA. She was a part of the squad that won gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, and competed in the 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games with Canada. She is expected to play with the team as they head to the FIBA World Cup this fall in Australia.
In the 2014 WNBA Draft, Achonwa was selected ninth overall by the Indiana Fever where she played until she signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Lynx in 2021. Overseas, she has competed on teams in Italy, China, South Korea, and France.
On top of her career as a pro basketball player, Natalie Achonwa is also an outspoken advocate for women in sports and other important social issues. She holds a leadership position in the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, the union for WNBA players. The WNBPA was essential in the historic Black Lives Matter advocacy during the 2020 WNBA “bubble” season, as well as the vaccination campaign that led to the WNBA having a 99% COVID vaccination rate in 2021.
Achonwa has also participated in numerous campaigns and events that support women in sports, and has been outspoken about the need for more basketball programming and opportunities for female athletes in Canada. As an Adidas athlete, she is a part of the company’s movement to highlight women in sports on their platforms.
In 2021, Natalie started as a panelist on Sportsnet, covering the Canadian Men’s National team as they compete for a spot in their own FIBA World Cup. She joins a growing group of athletes who are taking roles in sports broadcasting, filling the very visible need for more women in those spaces.
As we celebrate International Women’s Month, highlighting athletes like Natalie Achonwa and recognizing the advocacy work they do on top of being a pro athlete is important. Seeing players like Achonwa succeed in their field will help young girls getting into the sport, and any sport, realize they too can reach the highest level. On top of that, the increase in women in broadcast roles in sports helps minimize the stigmas that come with women in sport — at the playing, coaching AND broadcast level.
Natalie Achonwa continues to be an excellent representative of Canadian athletes. Make sure to tune in as she begins the WNBA season with the Minnesota Lynx, as well as the Canadian National Team’s journey to the FIBA World Cup this fall. You can find her on twitter @NatAchon as well as on instagram @natachon11.