If you are a woman in need of some athletic inspiration, you may think it’s impossible to find in this male-dominated world. When it comes to sports and fitness, more and more workout videos and exercises are performed and taught by men. The most prominent professional sports are all played by, you guessed it, men.
What is a woman to think? Still yet, what is a mom to say to her daughter who wants to know why softball isn’t regarded as highly as baseball, and why can’t she grow up to play baseball instead. While women are breaking down barriers in all major areas, it seems sports might be one where it hasn’t quite gotten there yet.
Not all hope is lost. Did you know that some of the most recognizable athletes are women? Even though women don’t play football (yet) or baseball, there are some sports where women are dominant.
If you ever need to find inspiration for you or your daughter, take a look at the following list of women athletes, and hopefully, you’ll start realizing that not every successful athlete has to be big, bulky and male.
The rivalry between Venus and Serena Williams has been storied and, well, it’s been fun for the tennis world. They are the two most decorated female tennis players of all time, with Serena holding a comfortable edge over Venus. The two sisters have combined to win 30 grand slam titles over the course of their careers in addition to a combined 121 singles titles. They have also won 14 doubles grand slam titles together, and 5 Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles match.
The Williams Sisters have captivated audiences for the better part of two decades, and their stories aren’t over yet. Even though they’ve been plagued in recent years by injuries and Serena was temporarily sidelined by the birth of her first child, they continue to maintain their presence in the sporting world as top women athletes.
Jenny Finch stole American hearts as the fast-pitch hurler who helped Team USA bring home gold in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and silver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She went on to play in the U.S. Professional Fast Pitch League, where she would frequently pitch several no-hit innings a game. Her number was retired from the University of Arizona where she played in college.
Finch was a huge advocate for softball’s reinstatement in the Olympics, stating that it was an important sport since anyone could play it; there was no specific body style required (like in many other Olympic sports). Even though Finch retired from the sport in 2010, she is still the most recognizable softball player in the world to date.
Simone Biles, then only 19 years old, stole hearts and medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. This is one of the women athletes who rose to success by sweeping the competition, winning gold in every event she entered. In doing so, Biles became the highest-ranked American gymnast of all time, and she is ranked as the third-best gymnast of all time in the world.
Biles created and regularly performs a move during her floor routine which defies gravity and physics. It is appropriately named after her. Biles has had great success in and out of the gym. She has penned an autobiography about her humble beginnings in the foster care system. Biles has not yet said if she will come back to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but rumor has it she has started training again. Only time will tell if she adds to her medal count.
Danica Patrick began her racing career as a child in the Kart circuit. Her parents allowed her to leave high school and move to the United Kingdom to continue her training. Patrick eventually went on to compete in the open-wheel Indy circuit, where she became the first and only woman ever to win an IndyCar series race when she won the 2008 Indy Japan 300. Patrick made the transition to NASCAR in 2010. She made quite a splash in the male-dominated racing world before retiring from racing in 2018.
Lindsey Vonn has become synonymous with snow. That’s because she dominates the downhill ski portion of almost any race she’s in. Vonn is the most decorated female skier of all time, and as of now, she has no plans to stop. She is a testament to persistence as she has suffered some serious injuries on the slopes that have almost ended her life. Each time, however, she gets up and straps the skis back on to go out and get it done.
Ronda Rousey rose to fame in the octagon taking out competitors in mixed martial arts. She is trained in Judo where she has a 6th-degree black belt. (Her mother was actually the first woman to win a world Judo championship, so the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.)
Rousey became the first woman to sign a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and she ultimately became its first female bantamweight champion. Her record in the six years she competed as a professional in the mixed martial arts arena was 14 wins and two losses. Since retiring from the octagon, Rousey has joined the WWE wrestling brand where she makes frequent appearances on their RAW show.
Mia Hamm became a household name when she helped lead the United States to two FIFA World Cup championships. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and is regarded as one of the best soccer players, man or woman, who has ever played for the United States. Hamm was the face behind the first women’s professional soccer league in the United States during its inaugural years (2001 to 2003). At one time, Hamm also held the record for the most international goals scored by a man or woman.
Gabby Reece broke a lot of barriers in the world of volleyball and beyond. Standing at 6’3″, she was a veritable wall behind the net. Her height, athletic prowess and exotic beauty made for a successful modeling career off the court.
As one of the women athletes in beach volleyball, her stats are impressive: She set four records at her alma mater Florida State University that still stands 20-something years later; she was part of the four-person team who won the first ever Beach Volleyball World Championships; and, she was the first female spokesperson for Nike. These days, she spends time raising her three daughters and helping others, especially women, stay fit with her diet and exercise advice and articles.
Dubbed “The White Mamba” by NBA great Kobe Bryant, Diana Taurasi is just one of the many women athletes in basketball. Diana has certainly led a storied career. In college, she helped her University of Connecticut Huskies win three national championship titles in the time she was there. Taurasi went on to play in the WNBA, where she broke the all-time scoring record in 2017, with 7,494 points. Ironically, she broke her record in 2018, when her total rose to 8,000 career points. She is well-known for being able to score in clutch situations and is considered one of the best basketball players in history.
If you were around during the 1980’s, you remember watching Jackie Joyner-Kersee (and her nails) compete for Olympic stardom. Joyer-Kersee’s specialty was the long jump and the heptathlon, which consisted of a series of seven events (high jump, 100-meter hurdles, shot put, long jump, 200-meter dash, 800-meter run, and javelin). In the 1988 Olympic Games, she won gold in the heptathlon and the long jump. She would go on to win one more gold in the heptathlon in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and the bronze in the long jump at the same games.
Before her retirement from competition in 1998, Joyner-Kersee had amassed six Olympic medals and five World Championship and Pan American Games medals. She is one of the most decorated heptathlon and long jump competitors of all time. She still holds the world record for the heptathlon which she set in 1988. Of the seven events, only her long jump record has been broken. Sports Illustrated named Joyner-Kersee the greatest female athlete of the 20th Century.
In many disciplines across the world of sports, women athletes have risen to the challenge of pushing their bodies and their minds to produce peak performances. These 11 females are just a small sampling of the amazing women athletes that train and compete, and many know the joy of victory and sadness of defeat.
Some of these women have broken barriers and records, some of which still stand. Others have left the sport that made them and has gone on to devote their lives to children, family, and charities. Many of these women have been held up as examples for young girls and women of what hard work and perseverance can do. The sport they competed in didn’t define them; they defined the sport.