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Brooklyn’s Sheppard sisters are the Sports Illustrated Kids 2016 Sportskids of the Year

The Three Win for Their Tenacity Through Hardship, Dedication and Accomplishments on the Track

November 25, 2016 From Time Inc
Photo courtesy of Time Inc.
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Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated Kids has named Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard, of Brooklyn, New York, the 2016 SportsKids of the Year. The Sheppard sisters—aged 11, 10 and 9, respectively—were selected from among thousands of entries for overcoming substantial obstacles to qualify for this year’s AAU Junior Olympic Games and for each individually medaling in track and field events. The sisters appear on the cover of the December issue of Sports Illustrated Kids and are featured in a cover story and special SI Kids video production that spotlights their remarkable optimism and achievement at a time when they have been living with their mother in a two-bedroom unit in a homeless shelter. They are the first set of sisters to win this award and the second set of siblings; brothers Conner and Cayden Long were honored in 2012. The new issue of SI Kids hits newsstands on Monday, November 28, and the new cover and SportsKid feature are available online now at

Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard will be honored alongside their mother, Tonia Handy, at a special SportsKid of the Year event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on December 12. They will also be recognized with the Sports Illustrated 2016 Sportsperson of the Year, the recipient of the 2016 SI Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and other top names in sports at the SI Sportsperson of the Year ceremony to take place at the Barclays Center later that evening. Goldfish® Flavor Blasted® crackers is the presenting sponsor of the SI Kids SportsKid of the Year program. 

The Sheppard sisters began living in a homeless shelter with their mother after having been evicted from their apartment in September 2015. They began their track and field careers when a babysitter signed them up for a meet in January 2015 as a fun, free activity. After the meet, they were invited to join the Jeuness Track Club and subsequently qualified for the 2016 AAU Junior Olympics in Houston, Texas. Tai ran the 400-, 800- and 80-meter hurdles; Rainn ran the 3,000; and Brooke participated in the 800, 1,500 and high jump. Each girl placed within the top 15 in each event, and Rainn won the 3,000-meter run for the 11-year-old girls’ division. The girls are also heavily involved in activities outside of sports, ranging from chess and book clubs to playing the piano and performing in school plays.

“This is such an amazing story. You can’t hear it and not be moved by the dedication that Tai, Rainn and Brooke have shown,” said Mark Bechtel, Managing Editor of Sports Illustrated Kids. “We hear a lot about the obstacles that athletes have to overcome to succeed. But very few have coped with what these sisters—and their mom—have faced. They’ve done it with grace and poise. Their efforts have been phenomenal—and inspiring. For these reasons, and for their accomplishments on the track, the Sheppard sisters are the SportsKids of the Year.”

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The three sisters spoke to SI Kids about their accomplishments and future sports goals:

-Tai wants to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympic Games every year. She placed second in the 80-meter hurdles in her age group in Houston in July, her second time competing at the meet. “Since I qualified for my first year, I’m like, I can do this,” she says. “I know I can.”

-“I plan to go to the Olympics one day in [a distance race],” says Rainn, who returned from Houston with a gold medal in the 3,000.

-“My goals are to get faster as a runner and jump higher,” says Brooke, who placed second in the high jump in Houston.

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