Female Athletes Who Dominate in Their Game
Over the past century, women have been breaking ground as athletes. No longer just boys’ games, sports now cater to everyone thanks to the inclusion of female players. This itself fills many women with delight, especially when they didn’t think they’d see someone like them taking the field, court, track, ring — you name it. Take a look at the female athletes who are influencing new generations of sports stars.
At four years old, Maria Sharapova had her first taste of tennis thanks to her father Yuri. To aid her dream, Yuri moved the family to the United States. Yuri took a plethora of small jobs to fund his daughter's training at the IMG Academy.
At eight years old, Simone Biles began her gymnastics training with coach Aimee Boorman. In 2011, she started her gymnastics career at the American Classic, where she took first place. Two years later, she debuted at the World Championships, earning two gold medals.
After watching her sister Karen on the ice, Michelle Kwan decided to dive into the world of figure skating. Training took a financial toll on Kwan's family. Fortunately, a Los Angeles Figure Skating Club member assisted them with more coaching.
Having a father as a tennis coach brought Steffi Graf closer to the sport. At only five years old, Graf took part in her first tournament. At 15, Graf won a tennis demo at the 1984 Olympic Games. At this point, Graf's father knew his daughter was destined for greatness.
While living in Italy, Mia Hamm became hooked on soccer. Hamm's father Bill took notice and became her soccer coach. Hamm's skill landed her on the U.S. Women's National Team at only 15 years old, making her the youngest player to represent the country.
Billie Jean King
While she was a softball player as a kid, Billie Jean King switched to tennis at 11 years old. Her tennis matches gained buzz around town, with many locals coming to check her out. At 15 years old, King made her Grand Slam debut at the U.S. Open. King used that momentum to win a slew of minor titles.
Nastia Liukin has gymnastics in her blood. Born to Olympic medalist Valeri Liukin and world champion Anna Kotchneva, Liukin wanted to continue the legacy. At the 2003 Pan American Games, she won gold medals for the team and balance beam events. Liukin continued the gold medal wins at the Pacific Rim Championships and World Championships.
Sheryl Swoopes began playing basketball with her brothers before deciding to make it her career choice. In 1993, Swoopes' performance helped the Texas Tech Lady Raiders win their first NCAA Championship. She still holds numerous school records today, including most points in a season with 955.
Hannah Teter grew up in a family of snowboarders. With so much knowledge available, Teter decided to join the fun. When she was 15, Teter won the World Junior Halfpipe Championship. In the same year, she made history by being the first woman to complete a 900 in competition.
Fabiola da Silva
Back in the day, vert skating was separated into men's and women's competitions. Brazilian athlete Fabiola da Silva changed the game with her dominant style. After taking over in women's vert skating, she was allowed to participate in men's competitions in 2001.
Ski racer Picabo Street joined a handful of local teams before joining the U.S. Ski Team at 17. In 1993, Street earned the silver medal in the combined event at the World Championships. The following year, she had the same result at the Winter Olympics.
Growing up, Althea Gibson dealt with ample racial inequality while playing tennis. Because of her skin color, Gibson was banned from competing in the United States National Championships. After some harsh criticism, Gibson became the first African-American tennis player to compete in the coveted tournament. As expected, her performance earned her critical acclaim.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Babe Didrikson Zaharias wowed everyone with her talents as a kid. When it came to sports, playing just one wasn't enough for the Texan. As an adult, Zaharias earned Olympic gold in track and field in 1932. Three years later, she retired from the sport to play professional golf, which found her winning 10 championships.
While most 10 year olds were busy in class, Michelle Wie was busy qualifying for the USGA Amateur Championship. She didn't win, but the Hawaiian didn't slow down her momentum. The following year, she won the Jennie K. Wilson Invitational, which is Hawaii's most prestigious golf tournament.
At the age of 14, Katarina Witt made her figure skating competition debut at the 1979 European Championships. While she finished in 14th place, Witt used what she learned to better herself on the ice. In 1984, Witt earned gold medals at the Winter Olympics and World Championships.
During her time at Diamond Bar High School, soccer player Alex Morgan became an All-American player. At 22, she was the youngest player on the 2011 United States women's national soccer team. The California native showcased her immense skill with two goals and one assist at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.
The Fabulous Moolah
While women's wrestling is more respected today, that wasn't always the case back in the day. At 15 years old, Mary Lillian Ellison embarked on her own wrestling career. Ellison had to dodge numerous pitfalls before winning the NWA World Women's Championship in 1956.
When your father is Muhammad Ali, boxing is practically in your genes. At first, Muhammad Ali wasn't proud of his daughter Laila for jumping into the business. On October 8, 1999, Laila had her first match against April Fowler. With a packed crowd watching, Laila impressively took the victory.
Abby Wambach spent her youth playing soccer for Our Lady of Mercy High School and Rochester Spirit. After her time with the University of Florida Gators, Wambach joined the U.S. women's national soccer team in 2001. She helped bring the team to four FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments with a win in 2015.
Venus Williams has been at the forefront of women's tennis for years now. While many know about her doubles victories with her sister, Venus' solo career has its own achievements. In 2002, she became the first African-American since Althea Gibson to be the number-one player in the world. Venus became the number-one player on two other occasions.
Aly Raisman became infatuated with gymnastics after watching performances from the Magnificent Seven. After a string of smaller competitions, Raisman made her major competition debut at the 2010 Pacific Rim Championships. With a gold medal win, the Massachusetts native upgraded to the World Championships the next year.
Following her brother Brian, Megan Rapinoe dove into soccer at the age of three. After years of training, Rapinoe joined the United States women's national soccer team in 2006. Five years later, she helped the team earn the silver medal against Germany at the FIFA Women's World Cup.
As a kid, Wilma Rudolph lost strength in her left leg following numerous illnesses. It didn't stop her from having dreams of becoming an outstanding track star. In high school, Rudolph became the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic track and field team. She gained her first Olympic medal with a bronze in the 4x100 relay at the 1956 Olympics.
At two years old, Tara Lipinski pretended to win a gold medal while watching the 1984 Summer Olympics. Fourteen years later, the figure skater found herself winning the Olympic gold medal in ladies' singles. Before the Olympics, Lipinski became the youngest figure skater to win a World Figure Skating title.
Ronda Rousey became a dynamite force in MMA upon her debut in 2010. After success in Strikeforce, Rousey found herself as one of the UFC's biggest names. She held the Women's Bantamweight Championship for almost three years before losing it to Holly Holm.
As a child, Lindsay Vonn met beloved ski racer Picabo Street, which increased her interest in the sport. Years later, Street would become Vonn's mentor as the Minnesotan turned pro. At the 2010 Winter Olympics, she became the first American woman to win the gold medal in downhill.
As one of the top basketball players at Morningside High School, Lisa Leslie was destined to be a basketball icon. Fortunately, she got the chance after being drafted into the WNBA in 1997. With the Los Angeles Sparks, Leslie earned two WNBA Championships. In 2002, she was the first WNBA player to dunk the basketball.
Serena Williams has been one of the most dominant female tennis players in the new millennium. The Michigan native became the number-one player in the world on eight different occasions. When it comes to her gameplay, Williams is mostly known for her explosive comeback victories.
Danica Patrick’s success is a big reason why women became more involved with car racing. The Wisconsin native spent three years racing in England before returning to the States as a professional. In 2008, she became the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race. The next year, she finished in third place at the Indianapolis 500.
Margaret Court made her home country proud by becoming the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam and Wimbledon. After her Wimbledon win in 1966, Court retired from the game. Two years later, she returned to tennis for additional Grand Slam victories at the U.S. Open and French Open.