Celebrating Women’s History Month: Female Athletes Who Inspire Us
This month is all about celebrating women, so we’re shining a spotlight on a few of our fellow female athletes who not only dominate their careers but inspire us on the regular with their talent, perseverance, and strength; and they are making history while they do it!
1. Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland is the epitome of the American dream. She began dancing at age 13 (late in the game for aspiring dancers!) while living with her mother and five siblings in a single motel room. Just three months after she took her first class, she was en pointe, and two years later, she was performing at a professional level. Despite being told many times that she didn’t have the “right body” for ballet, as well as being a black woman in a predominately white art form, Misty eventually made her way to the American Ballet Theatre (joining in 2001). By 2015, not only did she make her debut as the starring role of Odette/Odile in the company’s production of Swan Lake, but she was also promoted to principal dancer in the company, making her the first female African-American dancer to do so in the company’s 75-year history!
2. Bethany Hamilton
In 2003, Bethany Hamilton made headlines when she lost her arm in a shark attack while surfing off the coast of Kauai. It could have devastated her surfing career, but she was back on her board just a few weeks after surgery, pursuing her dream of becoming a pro surfer. Today, in addition to being a wife and a mother, she is known for riding some of the biggest waves in the world, a feat which is the focus of the 2018 documentary “Unstoppable.” Her perseverance over the last 15 years is absolutely awe-inspiring and she has empowered not only athletes, but millions of people around the world, to overcome the obstacles that face them.
3. Simone Biles
As the most decorated World Championship American gymnast (14 medals total: 10 gold, two silver, two bronze), Simone Biles is living proof that hard work pays off! During her time on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team (dubbed the “Final Five”) at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Biles set the record for most gold medals in women’s gymnastics at a single Games. Biles is clearly a force to be reckoned with, and it looks like she’s not stopping any time soon! Since the Olympics, Simone has been named Associated Press‘ Female Athlete of the Year, USOC‘s Athlete of the Year, and One of the Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine.
4. Maria Sharapova
After being gifted her first tennis racket when she was only four years old, Maria Sharapova knew tennis would hold a special place in her heart forever–and she was right! Since going professional at 14 years old, Sharapova has gone on to become one of the best tennis players in the world. Despite a shoulder injury in 2007 that severely affected her performance, she was still ranked among the top 5 women’s tennis players that year! What’s more? She is one of ten women (and the only Russian!) to hold the prestigious Career Grand Slam.
5. Chloe Kim
Chloe Kim was the star of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang where she became the youngest woman to win the gold medal in the Women’s Snowboarding halfpipe competition (she was just 17 years old at the time!) after completing back-to-back 1080 spins. Just last month, Kim won her first world championship in the halfpipe and took home her fifth X Games title. While the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing are a few years away, she tells the New York Times her next order of business is attending college at Princeton!
6. Lindsay Vonn
It’s incredible to think we have been watching Lindsay Vonn on the slopes for nearly 20 years now! She’s considered the most successful female alpine skier in history and the most decorated with 89 World Cup wins and a 2010 Olympic Gold medal in the Women’s Downhill race–the first one for an American woman! But, her career is not one without upset as she’s suffered several injuries along the way, most notably her 2013 crash during the FIS Alpine Skiing World Championship which forced her to withdraw from the rest of the season, but luckily, not the rest of her career (she returned to the slopes the following year!). Her final downhill race was this past February at the World Ski Championships in Switzerland; it brought her a bronze medal to celebrate shortly after she announced her retirement.
7. Mirai Nagasu
In 2018, Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to land the triple axel (only the third woman in history at the Olympics!). This was no easy feat, as the iconic move had Mirai practicing her form on a pulley system for weeks leading up to the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. The triple axel entails a skater taking off on their forward foot and completing three and a half rotations in the air, all before landing on their back foot with 550 pounds of pressure. It’s a gravity-defying trick which Mirai executed flawlessly, and proved that you don’t need a gold medal to make history!
8. Gabby Douglas
Gabby Douglas has been taking the gymnastics world by storm. Douglas was a member of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics teams, known as the “Fierce Five” and the “Final Five,” respectively. She has taken home gold in both the Team and Individual all-around competitions–becoming the first woman of color to do so, as well as the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around champion. And, she’s just 23 years old!
9. Shalane Flanagan
Shalane Flanagan always dreamed of winning the New York City Marathon, and in 2017, her dream became a reality. And she made history while doing it by becoming the first American woman to win the Marathon in 40 years! Flanagan crossed the finish line ahead of three-time champion, Kenyan Mary Keitany, in two hours, 26 minutes and 53 seconds. But the inspiration doesn’t stop there! Later on in the day, Shalane returned to the finish line to hand out medals to the runners whose personal goals were to just complete the marathon. Now that’s a team player!
10. Serena Williams
Serena Williams has been a dominating force in women’s tennis (and sports in general) for quite a long time; she currently holds a total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, which puts her tied for second on the all-time list! Williams has broken all sorts of records during her career and is considered among many to be one of the best, if not the best, women’s tennis player of all time. And on top of all that, she’s a new mom, inspiring women around the world with her unwavering motivation and strength.