Whoever said that women are meant to sit at home obviously never met these women. We are finally reaching an era in which it’s alright for women to go out and play sports not only as a hobby but also to make a living. Amidst all the sexism and troubles, there have been 100’s of courageous women who defied the norms of society and went ahead to pursue their passion for sports. A dispiriting fact is that most people, if asked about female athletes, won’t be able to name more than handful of them. The list below discusses the most famous female athletes of all times.
10) Janet Evans: Swimmer, USA
Swimming from the age of 2, she is said to have been a natural swimmer. In 1987 at the age of 15, Janet made her international presence felt when she broke the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle record. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Janet won gold medals in all three of her races: 400 meter freestyle, 800 meter freestyle, and 400 meter Individual Medley. She still holds the time record for 400m. Janet broke a total of seven world records in three events (400 meter, 800 meter, and 1500 meter freestyle) during her career. Her set records have lasted for the longest time in the history- 400m: 19years, 800m: 21 years and 1500m: 20 years. Apart from being a swimmer, Janet is a motivational speaker (since the age of 16), a television personality and an author. She stared on the reality television show Celebrity Circus.
9) Bonnie Blair: Speedskater, USA
Born in 1964, Bonnie took to skating at a young age and joined the national team post graduating high school. She won her first Olympic gold medal (in the 500 meters) and set a world record at the 1988 Winter Olympics. In 1994, she became the first American woman to win 5 gold medals. To top it all, she was also the first woman to win gold in the same event for 3 consecutive games (1988, 1992 and 1994). Bonnie retired from competitive sports in 1995 and became a motivational speaker as well as started a charitable society Bonnie Blair Charitable Fund. She also supports several other NGOs, like the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Cancer Society.
8) Nadia Comaneci: Gymnast, Romania
At the 1976 Olympics, the 14 year old Romanian became the first person ever to receive a perfect score of 10. Discovered at the age of 6, she went on to register seven perfect scores and win three gold medals—for the uneven bars, balance beam and individual all-around – along with a bronze medal as a part of the second-place Romanian national team.She retired from active sports in 1984. In 2000, she was included in the list of ‘Athletes of the century’ by the ‘Laureus World Sports Academy’.
7) Lisa Leslie
Reaching the height of 6 feet at very a young age, Lisa picked up the sport in Middle school. She was contacted by WNBA in 1997. She became the first player for the new league and had an impressive career thereafter.In 2001, she was the first WNBA player to win the regular season MVP, the All-Star Game MVP and the playoff MVP in the same season. She also led the sparks in 2 back to back seasons 2001-2002. She played continuously till 2006, winning 2 more MVP in the Women NBA.She also holds the distinction of being the first woman in the league to make a slam-dunk during an official game. After sitting out for one season because of pregnancy, she returned for her final season in 2008 winning her forth gold at the Summer Olympics Beijing. In 2009 she announced her retirement from professional basketball.
6) PT Usha: Runner, India
She is lovingly known as the Golden Girl, Payyoli Express and Queen of Indian track and field by many. Coming from a small village in Kerala, PT Usha is said to be the best woman athlete produced by India. She set the national record at the state athletic meet at Kottayam in 1977. She is the first Indian woman to have qualified for finals of an Olympic event. She achieved a record of 55.42 seconds at Los Angeles, the very first time the 400m hurdles were added to the women's athletics, and the same is the current Indian record. She is the recipient of the Arjuna Award, the Padma Shri and 34 international accolades for excellence in athletics. She currently lives in Kerala where she runs the Usha School of Athletics.
5) Billie Jean King: Tennis Player, USA
She came into the limelight at the tender age of 15 when she won the Southern Californian championship in her age group in 1958.After the win, she was trained by Alice Marble (another tennis legend). After a series of loses for the next 2 years, Billie Jean rose to fame with her win in the Wimbledon women’s double as the youngest pair. She constantly fought for equality of the genders. She is famous for winning the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ against Bobby Riggs (a top tennis player of his time). At the age of 55, he challenged all the women who played the sport and said that he could still beat them. In the second match of the series he was defeated by Billie Jean, making her extremely famous. She was the first prominent female athlete to come out and embrace her homosexuality. She then became a torchbearer for the LGBT community and has been working with them since.
4) Ronda Rousey: Mixed Martial Artist, USA
She was the first UFC Women’s Bantam Weight Champion and is the current champion of the same. Born in 1987, she was the first American to win gold in Judo in the Beijing Summer Olympics 2008. She is known to armbar all her opponents in the first round itself. Rousey is the consensus #1 pound-for-pound female MMA fighter in the world. She made the cover of ESPN’s annual magazine “the body Issue’ in 2012. She has recently shifted to acting, landing roles in films like expendables 3, Fast and Furious 7 etc.
3) Saina Nehwal: Badminton Player, India
SainaNehwal has been the badminton prodigy for India since 2006. Over the course of her career she has gone from strength to strength, reaching the zenith on 2nd April 2015 when she was declared World’s Number 1 by the Badminton World Federation. She is the 1st Indian to earn several accolades in the field of Women’s Badminton - the 1st Indian to win a medal in badminton in the 2012 Olympics (bronze), the 1st Indian to be the number one, the 1st Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championship and the 1st Indian to win a Super Series tournament.
2) Marta Vieira Da Silva: Footballer, Brazil
Commonly known as Marta, she is a Brazilian Football forward who plays for the club FC Rosengård. She is a member of the Brazilian National Women football team and has been named the FIFA World Player of the Year 5 consecutive times between 2006 and 2010. She is also the top Women’s World Cup goal scorer (79) of all time alongside Brigit Prinz. She was one of the six ambassadors for the FIFA World Cup 2014. In the 2007 Women's World Cup, she won both the Golden Ball award and the Golden Boot award.
1) Serena Williams: Tennis Player, USA
Currently, Women’s Tennis Association has ranked her number 1 in the world. She turned Pro at the age of 14, just 2 days shy of her 15th birthday. She first became number 1 in 2002 and has regained the rank 6 times post that. Her most recent win was in February 2013 when she became the oldest women to win the title and that too for the 6th time. She has a total of 34 Grand Slam titles to her name. Famously known as the ‘Queen of the Courts’, Serena has won over $60 Million in just prize money. She even has 4 Olympic gold medals to her name. Serena and her sister Venus have brought about a new wave in the field of Women’s tennis.