Conversations with Champions

Hear from world-class female champions and empowerment role models during a series of 12 panel discussions!


Tuesday, August 20th

Digit Murphy 

Description: How do you coach young women to become world-class champions? This candid conversation reveals the highs, lows, challenges and the role modeling coaches play to bring out the inner champion in female athletes. And how does coaching play a crucial role off the playing fields? Margaret “Digit” Degidio Murphy is the former head coach of the Boston Blades and Kunlun Red Star WIH in the Canadian Women’s Hockey Leagueand was the head coach of the Brown Bears women’s ice hockey program. She became the most victorious coach in Division I women’s ice hockey history during her 18th season at Brown and finished her NCAA coaching career with 318 career wins.  Liz Plosser, Editor-in-Chief, Women’s Health will interview Digit.

Erin Hamlin & Kim Vandenberg

Description: What makes an Olympic athlete want to compete?  Where do they get their passion and fire? How did they get their start? Hear from two Olympic medalists as they discuss the importance of getting girls into the game at a young age and keeping them inspired to compete over a career. Erin Hamlin is a three-time luge Olympian, 2009 World Champion, five-time U.S. National champion, six-time USA Luge Female Athlete of the Year. She was selected as Team USA’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Kim Vandenberg is Olympic swimming bronze medalist, 2008; silver medalist at the 2005 World University Games and 2007 world championships; Pan American Games champion, 2011. Lauren Lubin April, Director of Community Impact/Athlete Leadership at the Women’s Sports Foundation will moderate the conversation.

Dr. Mara Smith & Dr. Kate Ackerman – Mind/Body Rebalance

Description: Recent research reveals that training regimens for female athletes, traditionally based on men’s routines, may be doing more harm than good. Dr. Kate Ackerman (right), Director of the Female Athlete Program at Boston Children’s Hospital discusses her work with reframing training protocols for optimal performance for women. Former gymnast Dr. Mara Smith (left) helps athletes build mental skills enabling them to handle whatever comes their way. She has become a pioneer in the concept of Mental Strength and Conditioning. These two leaders bring us up-to-date on the critical importance and value of mind/body balance required to succeed on and off the playing field. Their conversation will be moderated by Bethany Bump, Health Reporter for the Times Union.

Wednesday, August 21st

Sunny Stroeer

You’re at the top of your game, but are you playing the right game? What does it take to let go of who you “should” be to become who you’re meant to be? At 30 years old, Sunny Stroeer left her Harvard MBA and successful corporate career behind to become a professional adventure athlete. She is a climber, mountaineer and trail runner. Her specialty is the high altitude endurance realm; she holds speed records on Aconcagua and on the Annapurna Circuit and has excelled on high trails in the Colorado Rockies and leads all-female expeditions to the Everest Region and Mount Kilimanjaro. Join Sunny for a candid conversation with Liz Plosser, Editor-in-Chief, Women’s Health.

Hosted by Women’s Health

Description: This spirited conversation is about therise of women in sports and fitness and its impact on future generations. A group of Aurora Games competitors (to be announced) will share their personal experiences of what it takes to compete, win and serve as a role model for the next gen of female athletes.  Liz Plosser, Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health will moderate the panel of world-class champions.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina | Hosted by the Times Union

Description: All athletes deserve to participate in sports free from bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct or any form of emotional or physical abuse. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina is a judge of the 30th circuit court in Ingham County, Michigan who sentenced Larry Nassar in the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal. She made it her mission to give voices to Larry Nassar’s survivors and, in the process, emerged as a fierce support system, eager to create a safe environment for victims of abuse in her courtroom. The Judge will discuss how athletes have the right to be protected from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. She is an empowerment advocate supporting women to find their voices recognize how strong they are, powerful and full of potential. Susan Mehalick, executive editor Women@Work and city editor of the Times Union will interview Judge Aquilina.

Thursday, August 22nd

Jackie Joyner-Kersee & Amy Palmiero-Winters

Description: Two world-class athletes speak out on their careers, life and what it means to achieve global recognition as the top athlete in their fields. They will also discuss how young women can strive to reach their personal potentials – even against all odds – and how to rise above adversity to succeed and thrive. Jackie Joyner-Kersee isranked among the all-time greatest track and field athletes in the heptathlon as well as  long jump. She won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals, in those two events at four different Olympic Games. Sports Illustrated for Women magazine voted Joyner-Kersee the Greatest Female Athlete of All-Time.Amy Palmiero-Winters is a decorated para athlete with multiple world records and firsts for a female amputee in marathons, ultramarathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons.Joyce Bassett, Executive News Editor, Times Union will moderate the conversation.

Shannon Miller & Laura Berman Fortgang | Hosted by TJMaxx

Description: The Gold Medal Mindset is all about winning the day. It’s about understanding that we need to make every moment matter. Whether it’s on the field or off, we can utilize the lessons learned through sport to help us through some the greatest challenges of life. Goal setting, positive attitude, teamwork and a commitment to excellence all play a role in helping us be our very best. Shannon Miller talks about her experience as an Olympic gold medalist and how it helped her launch her post-competition career and battle her biggest challenger yet, cancer.  Miller remains one of the most decorated gymnasts in history with seven Olympic medals. After retiring from Olympic competition, Shannon received her undergraduate degrees in marketing and entrepreneurship from the University of Houston and her law degree from Boston College. She then moved from Olympic athlete to advocate for the health and wellness of women and children. In 2011, Shannon was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. Now cancer free, Shannon continues to be a strong advocate for awareness and early detection. Her words will inspire you to dream big, focus on what matters, and take specific steps to achieve success! The seminar will be moderated by life strategist and professional speaker, Laura Berman Fortgang. As a business owner, executive trainer, author and media perennial, Laura is one of the first professional coaches to be trained and credentialed in the United States and helped found the International Coach Federation.

Donna de Varona

Donna de Varona discusses how to take advantage of the opportunities today to learn how sports, competition and training can transform your life — personally and professionally. The experiences you have and lessons you learn about yourself and teamwork will give you an advantage off the playing fields. Since the age of 13 when she first competed as a swimmer in the Olympics in 1960, Donna de Varona has been an advocate for women in sports. In 1964, the Associated Press and United Press International voted de Varona the “Most Outstanding Woman Athlete in the World.” In the early 1960s, college scholarships for women athletes didn’t exist and women were offered few opportunities to coach sports in American high schools and colleges. De Varona retired from swimming and used her relationship with ABC Sports to land a job as one of the first and youngest female sportscasters in the male-dominated world of sports broadcasting. Donna’s passion for women, particularly athletes, makes her one of the foremost role models and mentors. Sara Tracey, senior editor Women@Work and Upstate magazine will interview Donna.

Friday, August 23rd

Nancy Kerrigan & Phaidra Knight | Hosted by Discover Albany

Description: What roles doresilience, imagination and creativity play in reinventing yourself?  How do you tap into your inner strength and conviction to win? And then what do you do to keep winning after your professional career as a champion is over? Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan won bronze medals at the 1991 World Championships and the 1992 Winter Olympics, silver medals at the 1992 World Championships and the 1994 Winter Olympics, and she was the 1993 US National Figure Skating Champion.Nancy speaks on her transformation from a world-class competitive athlete to a successful actress and commercial star. Phaidra Knight, J.D. is an athlete, attorney, media talent, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. She is a three-time World Rugby Cup player, was named US Rugby Player of the Decade in 2010 and is an inductee to the World Rugby Hall of Fame (2017). She recently founded PeaK Unleashed, a nonprofit focused on youth leadership with an initial mission of offering rugby to incarcerated youth. Phaidra also works as a television analyst for NBC Sports and appears in other outlets including ESPN, Flo Rugby and World Rugby. Leigh Hornbeck, senior writer Women@Work, Times Union will moderate the conversation.

Nadia Comăneci

Description: What is the road to championship and what does it take to sustain high performance throughout life on and off the playing field? Nadia Comăneci is a five-time Olympic gold medalist, all in individual events and the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympic Games. Hear her stories and find out what drives her and how she calls on her personal source of strength to be the best. Nadia will be interviewed by Joyce Bassett, Executive News Editor, Times Union.

Lisa Delpy Neirotti, Liz Fisher, Gail Levy & Kathryn Cartini

Description: Do you have a business idea but not exactly sure how to begin?  Lisa Delpy Neirotti is an expert business woman and professor who will share numerous personal start-up stories, experiences, and advice for both products and services. Liz Fisher is the founder and CEO of Lavva, a company that makes dairy-free, plant-based yogurt with pili nuts. After being diagnosed with advanced-stage ovarian cancer, Liz rebuilt her diet around nourishing, high-fat foods. Serial entrepreneur Gail Levy is founder of HFactor Water that has therapeutical benefits, particularly for athletes and cancer patients. Kathryn Cartini is a social entrepreneur and Partner at Chloe Capital, a venture capital firm focused on investing in women tech founders and educating women investors. Theywill present Business Start-Up: From Idea to Launch: everything you need from getting started, to testing and launching your idea, and finally how to secure funding and investment. Whether you are an athlete training for your next Olympic Games, considering other career options, a retired athlete or a member of the entourage, this course will help you be your own boss and set up your future self for success.  Get started now and learn how to turn your idea into reality.

Conversations with Champions is Free to the Public.  No tickets are needed for entry.  Seats and room are first come, first serve.